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 22, 2018

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Zululand

Region & Country:Southern Africa | South Africa

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 22, 2018, a University of Zululand (UNIZULU) professor was reportedly killed in apparent retaliation for exposing a fraudulent PhD syndicate within the university.

Dr. Gregory Kamwendo was a professor and dean of the faculty of arts at UNIZULU. Dr. Kamwendo came to UNIZULU in 2016 after serving as the dean of the College of Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

During his time at UNIZULU, Dr. Kamwendo reportedly investigated corruption issues at the university, including allegations that some faculty members were being paid by students to issue fraudulent PhDs; reports indicate that the university had been struggling with this issue for some time. Sources further indicate that Dr. Kamwendo had been receiving death threats following his investigation.

On May 22, Dr. Kamwendo was fatally shot while in the driveway of his home. Police opened an investigation and on November 29, 2018, arrested two suspects, including one UNIZULU professor. UNIZULU had reportedly suspended the suspected faculty member based on his alleged involvement in fraudulent activities. Media sources allege that the faculty member, after being taken into custody, admitted to hiring a hitman for R10 000 (roughly USD $730) to kill Dr. Kamwendo for uncovering the fraudulent activity. The UNIZULU lecturer in custody allegedly admitted to hiring the hitman. The two suspects attended their first court hearing on December 4, 2018.

Scholars at Risk sends condolences to the victim’s family and the UNIZULU community, and is gravely concerned about the targeted killing of a professor in apparent retaliation for carrying out an anti-corruption investigation at the university. Authorities have an obligation to protect the university community, including investigating and holding perpetrators of violent threats and attacks accountable. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, university autonomy, and democratic society generally.