Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, in his role as chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe, signs a book wearing a cap deemed too small for his head. Photograph: AP
By Simon Allison for The Guardian
A senior official at the University of Zimbabwe is fighting for her job after giving Robert Mugabe the wrong size graduate cap.
Assistant registrar Ngaatendwe Takawira has been suspended pending further disciplinary proceedings. She is accused of twice procuring headgear that was too small for the Zimbabwean president, who presided over graduation ceremonies in 2014 and 2015 in his role as chancellor of the university. This caused an “embarrassing situation for the chancellor and the vice-chancellor”, according to her suspension letter.
This year, the graduation ceremony was delayed by 45 minutes while the university tried to find a replacement mortar board. The search failed, however, and Mugabe had to make do with the cap that Takawira had procured.
“It fit the chancellor perfectly well,” said Takawira in legal papers. Photographs of the ceremony appear to support her account, with the black and gold cap seen sitting snugly on presidential pate.
Takawira has gone to the high court to have the disciplinary hearing dismissed, arguing that she was not solely responsible for the error, and that Mugabe had not made time for a proper fitting. “The cap sizes were obtained from the chancellor’s office and also, when he was asked to fit the caps, his office indicated that he was busy,” she said.
The graduate cap controversy comes amid new concerns about Mugabe’s health. At the India-Africa Forum Summit in Delhi, the president looked unsteady on his feet as he walked to a podium to greet Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. At one point he lost his balance and might have taken a tumble were it not for the helping hand of Modi.
“Mugabe, who will be turning 92 in the next four months, is widely seen as no longer fit to govern with close government officials and aides saying old age and health problems are taking a heavy toll on him,” reported the Zimbabwe Independent.