Zimbabwe’s Higher and Tertiary Education Minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo on Friday made a veiled threat to withdraw the degrees of students who demonstrated against President Robert Mugabe during a graduation ceremony at the University of Zimbabwe.
In a tweet on his twitter account, Moyo implied that any conduct deemed unruly by the state could lead to the withdrawal of one’s degree, in reference to former student leader, Tonderai Dombo, who waved a placard at Mugabe as he capped almost 4000 graduands at the University of Zimbabwe on Thursday.
“Just because one is Mr Dombo does not mean they should throw stones everywhere anytime.Disrupting a graduation ceremony can cost a degree,” he tweeted on his account.
“Dombo” is a Shona word meaning stone. Dombo was arrested along with two other students by Central Intelligence Officers who later handed them over to the police at Harare Central police station where they were detained overnight.
Political analyst, Pedzisai Ruhanya said it was permissible for a university to withdraw a student’s degree but it had to be on merit, which in this case, he said, was not there. He said the students who protested were only exercising their right to express themselves freely.
“There was nothing illegal about what the students did. By protesting or holding placards, the students were exercising their rights in a civil manner. Moyo is playing a political game and what he is doing cannot stand the rigours of judicial scrutiny,” he said.
He said Moyo might want to please Mugabe but it would be difficult to effect his threat as it entailed a rigorous process that also called for the setting up of a committee to look into whether the withdrawal was in line with legal constitutional rights.
Ruhanya added that the withdrawal, in any case, was not done by government but the individual university.
Student leader, Tatenda Chigwada, said Moyo’s threats were empty and should not be taken seriously, adding it was not easy to deny someone who had put their efforts into their studies their hard earned degrees.
“These degrees are different from those they gave to Grace Mugabe,and other so called doctors in Zanu PF. It is not an Honorary degree, it’s a degree which someone studied for, spending sleepless nights,” he said.
“For someone because he or she was appointed Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, to then think he can withdraw that degree is nonsense. We as students are going to fight for the rights of these students who they are saying will not get degrees.”
MDC Youth Assembly Secretary, Denford Ngadziore said Moyo was only trying to please Mugabe.
“So it is not something new to us and we believe that was a mere statement which should not intimidate us as youths. We need to make sure we mobilise youths and other students to show that we are able to defend cde Dombo and his team. He said the fact that the students were fined a paltry $10 was testimony that their charges were not serious and did not warrant overnight detention,” he said.
“It shows this was just a stupid designed to silence people…how can you arrest someone and detain them for the whole night and then fine them $10.It shows there was no charge at all but they just wanted to intimidate the students.”
Ngadziore said youths stand up together in unity and defend their rights which were under threat from the failed Zanu PF regime, adding they would engage in protests to ensure Dombo and others were not denied their hard earned degrees.