SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: May 10, 2013

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Great Zimbabwe State University

Region & Country:Eastern Africa | Zimbabwe

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 14, 2013 Chenjerai Pamhiri, a lecturer at the Great Zimbabwe University, was arrested, and subsequently convicted and sentenced to three months in prison for insulting the president of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe.


Professor Pamhiri was arrested after he reportedly called President Mugabe a “dirty old rotten donkey” at a local supermarket on May 10, 2013. According to reports, while shopping at the store Pamhiri shouted insults and encouraged people not to vote for Mugabe. He was charged under Section 33 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which criminalizes any action that is deemed to be “insulting or undermining the authority of the President.” Professor Pamhiri has appealed the conviction and has applied for bail, while the appeal is pending. Professor Pamhiri’s arrest and prosecution appear to be part of a pattern of government measures aimed at silencing critics of President Mugabe in Zimbabwe. 


Scholars at Risk is concerned about prosecution and imprisonment of scholars for exercising the right to peaceful expression. State officials have a responsibility not to interfere with scholars’ right to expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Prosecution and imprisonment aimed at limiting such expressive activity undermine democratic society generally.