00:54 GMT26 January 2020
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    One of the world's poorest countries, Zimbabwe, is planning to spend $1.3 billion on a Robert Mugabe University. The flagship project is the latest in a long line of vanity schemes dreamed up by controversial statesmen, leaders and demagogues.

    93-year-old Mugabe, who has been the country's head of state since 1987, has been accused of ruining Zimbabwe's economy. Zimbabwe's economic output has halved since 2000, public services have collapsed and there is high unemployment.

    The country has suffered from hyper-inflation and in 2015 it was estimated 35 quadrillion Zimbabwe dollars was worth only US$1.

    But despite that the government which Mr. Mugabe heads continues to shower him with accolades. A street in the capital Harare is named after him, as is the government's school of intelligence and the highway leading to his main home in the countryside.

    Last year the ruling ZANU party nominated him to be their presidential candidate in next year's election, when he will be 94.

    "Cabinet has approved the establishment of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe University," said Jonathan Moyo, minister of tertiary education.

    "There can be no better recognition of President Mugabe's commitment to education and his exemplary leadership," he added.

    The university would be built in Mazowe, 20 miles outside Harare on land which was seized from white farmers by the president's wife, Grace Mugabe. She reportedly built two elite private schools on the land, using money from a Chinese company.

    The new university will reportedly cost US$800 million to build with another US$200 million pledged for an "endowment fund for research and innovation," although the details of the funding are unclear.

    The university will specialize in engineering, science and technology. Mr. Mugabe himself has seven degrees and 11 honorary degrees, according to Zimbabwean state media.

    Despite professing to be a socialist when he came to power, after a long guerrilla war with the racist regime of Ian Smith, he has enriched himself and his family while failing to address the poverty faced by most Zimbabweans. He is not the first demagogue to have been 'honored' with expensive buildings or statues.

    In the 1970s, at the height of his power, the people of the Philippines looked on in horror as a giant bust of President Ferdinand Marcos emerged on a hillside 100 miles north of the capital, Manila.

    Marcos, who was propped up by the CIA for years, fled into exile in 1986 and the bust, 100-feet high, was vandalized and then virtually destroyed by an explosion in 2002.

    The former president of another poor country, the Ivory Coast, Felix Houphouet-Boigny persuaded the Vatican to construct a giant cathedral in his home village in the 1980s. The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, the largest church in the world, cost US$300 million to build.  

    The Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade was criticized for commissioning a North Korean company to erect a US$27 million statue overlooking the capital Dakar.

    But at least the 160 foot African Renaissance Monument is honoring the continent's people rather than President Wade himself.

    © RIA Novosti. A.Roth, V.Titov

    Of course in North Korea the country is full of statues to one or other of the Democratic People's Republic's leaders.

    In 2012 a giant statue of Kim Jong-un's father was unveiled.

    The Grand Monument on Mansu Hill near Pyongyang is probably the most glorious example.

    There are two giant statues of the nation's founder, Kim Il-sung, and his son, Kim Jong-il, but as yet none of the current leader Kim Jong-un, who is involved in an act of macho brinkmanship with US President Donald Trump.


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    university, poverty, education, Robert Mugabe, Africa, Zimbabwe
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