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Mugabe’s $1 billion university plan too late to salvage a lost legacy

The government is already struggling to fund construction of planned new universities.

This year, Treasury disbursed $45 000 for Gwanda State University, $45 000 for Manicaland State University of Applied Sciences, and just $25 000 for Marondera University of Agricultural Science and Technology.

These are funds enough to build a basic rural classroom block, but nowhere enough for a modern university.

The $200m grant pledged towards the Robert Gabriel Mugabe University’s “Endowment Fund for Research and Innovation” matches the entire $200m budget allocation for the Ministry of Higher Education.

There is not much research the Ministry will support with that allocation, as $172.5 million of it will go to salaries. 

What makes the grant even more surprising is that the government has been sweeping corners and lifting sofa cushions searching for coins to refurbish decaying colleges.

The government has leaned on banks such as CBZ and IDBZ to float bonds and help source cash to build student hostels and other infrastructure.

An 18-page, 3000-word “incubation plan” for the new university lays out grand plans but provides no concrete strategies on funding, beyond the grant.

What it does, however, is reveal how the government is prepared to spend a billion of tax dollars to fund what is really a private university.

“In order to ensure that President R.G. Mugabe’s legacy is preserved and passed on to future generations, the international R.G. Mugabe University will have a Responsible Authority under the auspices of the Robert Mugabe Foundation whose Founding Trustees are His Excellency President Robert Gabriel Mugabe and the First Lady, Amai Dr Grace Mugabe,” the document says.

In real terms, the President is paying himself a billion from state coffers to run a private university.

The college will lead in the “industrialisation and modernisation of the country”, the document says. “RGMU” will have a capacity of at least 15 000 students.

A Finance and Revenue Working Group will be set up to “explore potential for the state to provide funding for construction costs”.

The group will also “determine financial resources that might be sourced from potential friends of the R.G. Mugabe University”.

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