Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Zim Cabinet Ministers Pursuing Full Time Degrees, On Whose Time?

By Takura Zhangazha*^

A friend recently sent me an image of three serving cabinet ministers outside the University of Zimbabwe Law Faculty. Carrying what appear to be folders, they are pictured with one of their lecturers who incidentally happens to lead his own political party.  As the saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words.  These three ministers are Prof Jonathan Moyo (Higher and Tertiary Education), Patrick Zhuwao (Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment) and Saviour Kasukuwere (Local Government). 

As already reported in the media, they all recently enrolled for the four to six year and full time (continuous learning) undergraduate law degree programme at our country’s oldest university. Their reasons for doing so are not necessarily in congruence but one can only guess it is to further their professional qualifications in one way or the other.  And that is not a bad thing in itself.  We are all encouraged in our highly competitive and small job market to get further qualifications where we can. Even if we are politically ambitious.

The only peculiarity that cannot escape notice is that these three ministers are obviously very  busy men. Just by dint of being elected (Moyo and Kasukuwere) and appointed (Zhuwao) members of parliament.  Add this to their ministerial and party portfolios, Kasukuwere is national political commissar of Zanu Pf, Moyo is secretary for Technology while Zhuwao  deputises the latter.  Where they find the time to study for a  full time law degree is baffling to say the least.

Even if they have special arrangements such as getting lectures in the evening, the last I checked the UZ Law Faculty does not offer part time studies for its undergraduate programme.  Once registered, it is assumed that you can make all the lectures on time and as per schedule with limited special arrangements. If there are exceptions then the Dean of the Faculty of Law has a bit of public explaining and justification on his to do list. Especially if the degree programme is to retain its credibility. 

This penchant for full time studies by those we assume to be ever busy and conscientious cabinet ministers should however be a cause for some national concern. 

Not least because it appears their priorities are clearly set elsewhere but also because they have not claimed study leave from the business of running the country.  Even as they reform the civil service to limit the ability of others to pursue similar knowledge acquisition endeavours for shorter periods of time.  To the extent that some civil servants, particularly teachers,  have opted to forego working altogether in pursuit of furthering their education after being denied study leave.

Furthermore, if the cabinet handbook permits ministers to use their influence to get scarce places at universities, then they must cite the relevant  sections for the public to understand that all of this is above board and based entirely on academic merit.  Or alternatively the Office of the President and Cabinet needs to explain how exactly three of its members handle a weekly dilemma of either missing school or a cabinet meeting while serving its core values of loyalty, patriotism, commitment, confidentiality, integrity, humility, accountability and professionalism.  Unless it has issued a special order that specific cabinet ministers are in need of further educational training and are therefore exempt from being expected to serve the country full time.

Perhaps in the broader scheme of things, there is an assumption that ordinary Zimbabweans accept anyone in a position of influence such as being a cabinet minister pursuing some sort of further education.  And in return those that are in these positions of national influence may not anticipate being asked about it.  Or even failing to achieve the required pass results.

The key questions however remain those to do with their political priorities  together with their own sense of self worth as elected leaders. And Zimbabweans do have a right to ask of their elected leaders on whose time they are pursuing what are essentially personal qualifications while having sworn a national oath to serve the country?  Furthermore, in the passage of time between starting and competing their full time degree programmes, how does that compliment government work and in any event, how did they get to where they are if they felt that their qualifications to hold political office are inadequate?

But then again, these are questions that can be avoided by those with political influence. Or they will answer via way of gloating about their educational qualifications to each other or senior civil servants via social media applications such as Whatsapp. How they pass their exams with such busy public office schedules is up to the degree awarding universities but we cannot be faulted for at least asking for a decent explanation as to how all of this really works.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha,blogpsot.com)
^ Blog was edited to note that the degree programme is four to six years full time (continuos learning) at 1522 hours CAT