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Zimbabwe's Mugabe & FM Biti at Odds Over Presidential Scholarship Fund

Sources said President Mugabe’s office wants to force Finance Minister Biti to fund the US$54 million program that sends students to study in South Africa, though funding for home universities is just US$20 million

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Finance Minister Tendai Biti are said to be at odds over funding for a US$54 million program for presidential scholarships to study in South Africa, Biti noting that Zimbabwe's own universities get only US$20 million.

Sources said the presidential office wants to force Biti to come up with funds for the program. Critics say most beneficiaries are linked to Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF.

Zimbabwe National Students Union Secretary General Joshua Chinyere said Biti should be commended for refusing to fund a partisan presidential scholarship program.

“The presidential scholarship program has nothing to do with national interests [so] Biti should not fund it since it has over the years benefited students linked to ZANU-PF,” he said. ZINASU Gender Secretary Kundai Chambara said many female university students have turned to prostitution to make ends meet, given underfunding of education.

Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Stan Mudenge of ZANU-PF is said to have blocked the re-introduction of grants and loans for university students saying Biti did not follow proper procedures in setting aside US$15 million for 2011 student funding.

The independent Newsday newspaper said Mudenge argued that the money should be diverted to fund an unpopular student cadet scheme that costs US$13 million.

Under the cadet scheme the government pays tuition for students who are subsequently obliged to fulfill national service such as teaching in rural areas for a couple of years.