Expensive initiative criticised as ‘defying logic’ in cash-strapped country
Zimbabwe has confirmed plans to spend $1 billion (£772 million) on a university named after its ailing president, Robert Mugabe.
Robert Gabriel Mugabe University, which will cost the equivalent of a quarter of the African country’s total annual budget, will be built on land north-west of Harare that was seized from white farmers by 93-year-old Mr Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
Jonathan Moyo, Zimbabwe’s higher education minister, told reporters that the university was “recognition” of Mr Mugabe’s “commitment to education and his exemplary leadership”.
Robert Gabriel Mugabe University will focus on teaching and research in science, technology and engineering fields, Professor Moyo said.
Zimbabwe’s cabinet has agreed to set aside $800 million to build the university, and a further $200 million for an endowment fund for research and innovation.
“It is a very expensive university but it is also very necessary,” Professor Moyo was quoted as saying by Harare’s Herald newspaper. “It is not cheap but one initiative that we feel requires support in recognition of President Mugabe’s academic and educational legacy.”
The announcement has been widely criticised by Zimbabwe’s opposition parties.
“This is populism that defies logic,” said Obert Gutu, a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change. “It is meant to stroke Mugabe’s ego because we know this government is broke.”
The development of the new institution is set to be supervised by the University of Zimbabwe and its vice-chancellor, Levi Nyagura.
It is expected to be accredited by June 2018, and to enrol at least 15,000 students.