Zimbabwean students' union urges HK to deport Bona Mugabe

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 February, 2009, 12:00am

A students' union in Zimbabwe has called on Hong Kong to deport the daughter of President Robert Mugabe who is studying at a university in the city under an assumed name.

The Zimbabwe National Students Union petitioned Chinese diplomats after the Sunday Morning Post last month revealed that 20-year-old Bona Mugabe is an undergraduate at the University of Hong Kong.

Students in the poor African nation, which is in the grip of a spiralling economic crisis and political turmoil, said Mr Mugabe's daughter should be made to study in her home country where they claimed her father's regime had badly neglected schools and universities.

Ms Mugabe has been allowed to study in Hong Kong despite sanctions and travel bans against her father and members of his regime by many western countries, including Australia, which ejected the children of Mr Mugabe's cronies from its universities.

In a letter presented to the Chinese embassy in Harare, students' union spokeswoman Blessing Vavu said Mr Mugabe's daughter should come 'back home to suffer with other patriotic students studying in the state universities'.

She wrote: 'It is disheartening to note that the first family insolently sent daughter Bona Mugabe under an assumed name to the University of Hong Kong, China, to further her studies while students in Zimbabwe suffer.

'Colleges and universities in the country have failed to open since 2008 because of, amongst other reasons, exorbitant and dollarisation of fees, lecturers striking over poor remuneration, and the serious brain drain of staff resulting in students failing to sit for examinations.

'The failure by the Mugabe-led government ... has seen the once prestigious education sector dilapidated from being one of the best in Africa ... The state of our education system is so deplorable that the president has seen it fit to trust the Chinese for the education of his daughter whilst ordinary students are failing to get a decent education.'

The students' union said it hoped HKU would take action to eject Ms Mugabe even if the government failed to take action.

Hong Kong should send her back to Zimbabwe 'as a way of mounting pressure on President Mugabe to resuscitate the once prestigious education system'.

Legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing and Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai earlier called for a review of the decision to admit Ms Mugabe.

Her presence in Hong Kong, where she enrolled in the autumn, was revealed after her 43-year-old mother, Grace, allegedly assaulted freelance photographer Richard Jones as he took pictures of her shopping in Tsim Sha Tsui last month.

The University of Hong Kong declined to comment specifically on the campaign by the students union in Zimbabwe but a spokeswoman insisted she did not believe Hong Kong students shared the union's views.

'We believe that many of our students will share our belief of the right of education for everybody and our view that people should not be responsible for what other members of their family have done,' she said. 'University students are adults and independent individuals.'

The university declined to say if Ms Mugabe had returned to resume her studies after the Lunar New Year break, although a management source earlier said officials would 'keep a watchful eye' for any negative impact the revelation she was studying at HKU might have on her or fellow students.

Asked about the call for Ms Mugabe to be sent back to Zimbabwe, a Hong Kong government spokesman declined to comment.