Former lecturer appears in court for alleged role in murder of UniZulu academic

University of Zululand
University of Zululand

A former lecturer at the University of Zululand (UniZulu) appeared in court on Tuesday for his alleged part in the murder of prominent academic Professor Gregory Kamwendo.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Natasha Kara said academic Solly Nkuna, 49, and suspected trigger man Oscar Mbhekiseni Mthiyane, 50, are accused of premeditated murder.

They return to the Empangeni Magistrate's Court on December 12 where their formal bail application will be heard.

It has been widely reported that Kamwendo was killed after allegedly uncovering a fraudulent PhD syndicate at the institution.

The university, however, denied this in a statement on Wednesday and said vital facts had been distorted.

"We have noted with shock that speculation and pre-emptive arguments are widespread on the motive of the murder. Yet the law enforcement investigators of the case have not made any public statement on the motive of the killing."

Dissertations found not to be compliant

Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele did not reveal details of the case but confirmed that the men appeared in court.

UniZulu said the allegedly erroneous reports were aimed at denting the reputation of both Kamwendo and the institution.

It said that Kamwendo did not undertake any investigation into the alleged awarding of fake PhD qualifications. 

The university did, however, concede that for the period 2017/2018, the higher degrees committee and senate "discovered that some of the presented dissertations were found not to comply with the policy imperatives".

"Therefore management, including Prof Kamwendo, diligently applied the University of Zululand's policies that govern and regulate the quality assurance as well as the integrity of its postgraduate administration, supervision and the eventual graduation of these candidates."

Following quality assurance checks, the university said it became clear that in certain instances, some dissertations and theses "had procedural and quality shortcomings".

Staff members undermine leadership 'through mafia tendencies'

"This resulted in disciplinary processes being instituted against the perpetrators who happened to be the supervisors and academic staff of the university."

The university said that after it instituted action against the staff, blame was shifted to management.

"Unfortunately, it has become a norm that when the perpetrators, who have connections in higher places, are disciplined by management, the blame is shifted to management and accused of maladministration practises and victimisation of staff."

The university said it believed that Kamwendo could have been a victim of staff members who "continued undermining the leadership through mafia tendencies".

"Hence his tragic assassination and untimely death. The university urges that the case should be allowed to follow all due processes without misrepresentations and fabrication of facts and justice must be done."

ALSO READ: ‘UKZN had no right to revoke PhD’

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