Congratulations Dr Grace Mugabe – The First Philosopher (In-Waiting)

Mbabane, Swaziland | 8 October 2014
Bill Snaddon

I’m sure you’ve caught up with the news that Zimbabwe’s first lady, the unflappable Grace Mugabe, has been awarded a doctorate of philosophy.

From this moment on she will be referred to by her full title, Dr Grace Mugabe, PhD, The First Philosopher-in-Waiting.

However for the sake of column space, let us refer to her as plain old Dr Grace, or Doc G, for short.

I wish I could have attended the graduation festivities to pass on my congratulations in person.

I mean, from what I hear Doc G completed her doctoral degree — which usually takes several years — in a matter of months. Now, to me, that requires some serious hard work and dedication.

Zimbabwean media alleged that she had registered for the doctorate only a few months before she was capped at the ceremony by her husband, President Robert Mugabe, who is also the chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe.

And judging from the family happy snaps, the ever-modest Doc G – looking good in oversized sunglasses – wasn’t the only one happy with her own achievement. Her hubby, the masterful liberation hero who learned a trick or two from his former colonial overlords, was also gushing with pride.

It must be noted that the man once known as Sir Robert, before that pedantic Queen Elizabeth stripped him of his knighthood, is no stranger to academic excellence.

The Great Man has more honoury doctorates than I’ve had pap dinners. But, taking his lead from his humble better half (Dr Grace, that is), Chancellor Mugabe says he doesn’t worry too much about honoury certificates. He has bigger fish to fry.

What I’m really trying to say is that in the photos from her big day Doc G was clearly chuffed with her continual rise up the ladder of life.

However it seems not everyone is so happy with her success.

The Zimbabwean National Students Union in a statement said: “A doctorate is not sexually transmitted, one has to work for it.”

The fiery students continued by suggesting academic qualifications have been “reduced to a bedroom issue”.

The students also pointed out that no one can find any trace of Doc G’s thesis and the university is having great difficulty answering questions about her enrolment.

But let’s not jump to any conclusions. Mrs Mugabe was the presidential typist back in the day, so, with those quick fingers in mind, completing a 70,000-word doctoral thesis in three months is not entirely out of the question.

Whatever the case, you can feel the tension from here. But instead of all these allegations flying back and forth, all this can be settled in a much easier way.

If our budding young Grace did in fact complete a degree in philosophy, someone should just ask her a few basic questions on the subject.

Who was Plato? might be one such question. If she answers by telling us that Plato is a type of Greek cheese, then we know she might be bending the truth a little bit.

But as far as I know that question has not yet been put to her.

Doc G, who recently marked her 49th birthday, hit straight back with words that sounded awfully similar to those uttered by her 90-year-old husband. She said those who criticise her and her ruling family are “cowards” because they refuse to openly declare their views.

I was confused by this taunt because I had just read the public statement by the students’ union.

According to the Associated Press, Doc G followed up with another statement that sounded eerily like her sugar daddy (Robert, that is).

“Whites have never liked us. They will not even offer you tea with sugar if you visit their homes, so let’s not be fooled when they come here with aid.”

What a clever wife she is. She’s learned from the best: When a group of black students criticise you, blame the whites. Ingenious.

Now that is a philosophy we can all get behind. All Grace be unto…

This column was originally published in the Times of Swaziland on October 8 2014

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