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: January 06, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Fort Hare

Region & Country:Southern Africa | South Africa

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 6, 2023, unidentified assailants attempted to assassinate University of Fort Hare (UFH) vice-chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu. Buhlungu’s bodyguard, Mboneli Vesele, was killed in the attack.

The attack took place outside Buhlungu’s home. Vesele was en route there, and as he approached Buhlungu’s driveway, gunmen in another vehicle began to shoot at Visele’s car. The attackers shot at both the driver’s and passenger’s seats. They fled the scene after the shooting.

Authorities moved Buhlungu to a safe location following the attack.

According to reports, the assassination attempt was in retaliation for Buhlungu’s efforts to combat corruption within the university. Buhlungu and other senior officials faced similar armed attacks in 2022, including a May 2022 shooting in which UFH’s fleet and transport manager, Petrus Roets, was killed.

Scholars at Risk is gravely concerned about a targeted, violent attack on university staff members and offers condolences to the victim’s family, friends, and colleagues. In addition to the terrible loss of life, such attacks target the core values of higher education, including academic freedom, the free exchange of ideas, and social responsibility. State authorities have a responsibility to safeguard these values by taking all reasonable steps to ensure the security of higher education communities and their members, including a responsibility to deter future attacks by investigating incidents and making every effort to hold perpetrators accountable, consistent with internationally recognized standards. Members of society similarly have a responsibility to help safeguard the higher education space, especially following incidents of such gross violence, by pressing demands to state authorities for greater protection and accountability, and by contributing to efforts to understand and reinforce principles of autonomy and academic freedom.