In a sad development, a Zimbabwean PhD student at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa died by suicide after his Visa renewal was turned down despite having a letter of good cause.
Phillip Chuma had been doing his PhD on the transition of newly qualified teachers into their first teaching position in Zimbabwean schools.
According to Wits University, Chuma’s PhD was expected to be ready for examination this year.
In a communication to the student body, Wits University said,
It is with a very heavy heart that we learnt about the sad and tragic passing of a PhD candidate, Mr Philip Chuma who died by suicide over the weekend. His study permit expired in November, and he had been unable to renew it.
Home Affairs required the processing of a Letter of Good Cause, which we supplied to him towards the end of last year.
Unfortunately, all attempts to request a speedy processing of his documentation were in vain, and this distressed him enormously as he had not been able to register for the 2022 academic year until his documents were in order.
He was in regular communication with the Wits International Office, his supervisor and the School Business Manager about the progress of sorting out his documentation. This week, he had put in an application to teach in the US through the Educational Partners International (EPI) programme.
Philip has been doing his PhD on the transition of newly qualified teachers into their first teaching position in Zimbabwean schools. He had recently completed his data analysis chapters and was busy working on his Discussion and interpretation of his findings. He presented parts of his work at SAERA and at the LCT International Conferences.
It was our hope that his PhD would be ready for examination later this year. Over the past few years, he obtained a Teaching Assistant bursary, and has assisted the School by providing marking support for the Geography Department and tutoring on Education I.
Exiled former Zimbabwe cabinet minister Prof Jonathan Moyo blamed Chuma’s suicide on South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoalede. Prof Moyo accused Motsoaledi of being Afrophobic and anti-Zimbabwe.
Writing on Twitter, Moyo said,
PHILIP CHUMA, a PhD candidate at Wits University in Johannesburg, died by suicide over the weekend; in a tragic case that has the evil trappings of the anti-Zimbabwean Afrophobia being pursued by Minister Motsoaledi at Home Affairs. Chuma played by the rules, to no avail. MHSRIP!