DURBAN – The killing of a university professor has shined a new light on long-whispered allegations that some South African universities have been dishing out fraudulent PhDs.
South African police say they have arrested two men after the University of Zululand’s dean of the faculty of arts, professor Gregory Kamwendo, was killed allegedly after he uncovered a fraudulent PhD syndicate at the institution.
Kamwendo was shot dead at his home in Empangeni, KwaZulu Natal Province in May, it is alleged by a hired assassin. One of the two men arrested by police is a lecturer at the same institution.
Persistent rumours have followed some South African universities, particularly those in KwaZulu Natal, that degrees were being offered in exchange for money.
Kamwendo’s colleague, who has not been named ahead of a court appearance, was behind the hit, according to the Sowetan newspaper.
He is alleged to have hired a hitman for R10,000 to kill the professor because he had uncovered a fraudulent PhD syndicate in the university that involved three members of the academic staff.
The Sowetan, citing a university source, said the university was “facing a crisis of fraudulent PhD degrees being granted to students” and the academic in question had been suspended for the alleged criminal activities.
“The professor was fighting against this corruption. There is a lot of people who have received PhDs through fraud,” said the source.
“They arrested the men late last week. It was a joint operation with the Empangeni tracing team, a detective from Sandton and Bheki Thusi, a private investigator from KwaZulu-Natal.”
The source said Kamwendo had received death threats before he was killed.
“An employee that was arrested is a professor at the university. He was bitter and telling him that he was going to kill him. The professor ended up opening a case of intimidation against him.”
Kamwendo, who was 53, was originally from Malawi and had been at the university since 2016.
Police say he was shot and killed in the driveway of his home. He suffered multiple fatal shots to his upper body.
It has been alleged that the academic in police custody confessed to hiring and paying a hitman to kill Kamwendo.
Colonel Thembeka Mbhele confirmed that two men were arrested last week.
“On Thursday, November 29, 2018, detectives arrested two suspects aged 50 years for murder. They will appear in the Empangeni magistrate’s court on Tuesday,” Mbhele said.
Last year, Zimbabwe’s Vice President Constantino Chiwenga initiated legal action against former Higher Education Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo who insinuated that his degree from the University of KwaZulu Natal was fraudulent.
Moyo, in a press statement, said in July 2017: “Finally, I’m happy that Chiwenga wants pre and post-independence disclosures about who was who, who did what and so forth. That’s good.
“Meanwhile, I take that to mean he wants the disclosure of who contributed what to his doctorate and who really wrote his KZN PhD. Again, the Shona wisdom that kunyarara kurinani pane kutaura, applies (staying quiet is noble). #Handeitione.”
Chiwenga said the allegations were defamatory and claimed $5 million in damages. Moyo is defending the lawsuit.