By MacDonald Dzirutwe
HARARE (Reuters) - The University of Zimbabwe has published former First Lady Grace Mugabe's PhD thesis after an anti-corruption watchdog said it was investigating whether the wife of ousted President Robert Mugabe was wrongly awarded a doctorate three years ago.
Grace graduated in 2014, the same year she launched her career in the ruling ZANU-PF party, a power push that led ultimately to November's de facto coup by political rivals worried she was set to take over from her husband.
In contravention of its normal practice, the university did not publish her 226-page thesis, entitled "The changing social structure and functions of the family: The case of children's homes in Zimbabwe", until this week, when it was released on its website (http://ir.uz.ac.zw/handle/10646/3463).
It was not clear why Grace, who runs a children's home near her family dairy farm outside Harare, used her second name and maiden surname - Ntombizodwa G. Marufu - for the paper.
University of Zimbabwe vice chancellor Levi Nyagura did not respond to calls for comment.
There had been widespread speculation that Grace had been fraudulently awarded the doctorate, which was dedicated to her husband "because of his dedication and commitment to the well-being of the people of Zimbabwe".
But Grace, who was lauded as "learned mother of the nation" by adulating followers, defended her academic record, telling a ZANU-PF rally in September that she had earned her PhD when her detractors thought otherwise.
In its abstract, Grace acknowledged that one weakness of her research was that "some interviewees tended to tell me what they thought I wanted to hear".
Goodson Nguni, lead investigator at the Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission, could not be reached for comment on whether the anti-graft agency would continue with its probe.
New President Emmerson Mnangagwa has made fighting corruption a top priority. Mnangagwa, 75, told the World Economic Forum in Davos this week Mugabe and his wife Grace had not been granted immunity from prosecution. [nL8N1PJ4GM]
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Cropley and Ralph Boulton)