Study permit not renewed by the Interior

PhD student Philip Chuma killed himself this week after he was unable to enroll for the 2022 academic year at the University of the Witwatersrand. The Zimbabwean national was in the country with a study permit that expired at the end of November which he was trying to renew.


In November last year, Cabinet took the decision not to renew Zimbabwean exemption permits, leaving more than 180,000 Zimbabweans on the hook. Foreign nationals had 12 months to apply for other permits – such as work or study depending on their personal needs.

Civil rights lobbyists, activists and Zimbabweans were outraged and took the government to court, but without success.

Internal Affairs demanded a good cause letter which was submitted by Chuma for processing. The student had cooperated with the government entity, but his efforts were in vain.

It would have left Chuma in distress as he languished for months without a permit to continue his life’s work. Wits was unable to enroll him as a student due to his lack of required documents.

According to university officials, he had been in constant contact with his academic supervisors about the matter.

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In a notice to Wits students, the university described Chuma as a dedicated doctoral student in the School of Education for the past five years.

He had obtained a scholarship for teaching assistance and helped with the correction

According to his LinkedIn profile biography, the PhD student had a research interest in transitioning newly qualified teachers into the teaching profession.

He was also a tutor in critical thinking, sociology, psychology and philosophy of education and a teaching assistant in geography teaching methodology at Wits.

The university said it was assisting with the process of repatriating Chuma’s body to his native Zimbabwe.

*For those suffering from depression or needing help, please call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 0800 567 567 or 0800 456 789