Calls to drop #FMF activists’ charges

HENRI UYS

More than a month after Pres. Zuma’s announcement on free higher education, there is still widespread uncertainty on how free education will be implemented and how it will be subsidized.

On 24 January, Pres. Zuma visited a top performing school in his hometown of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal. While addressing learners at the Bhuqwini High School, Pres. Zuma said, “You can’t say there is no money for education. I’ve told those who are looking at the finances to stop other government programmes to get money for free education because there are things that won’t take us anywhere.” However, Pres. Zuma did not mention any specific government programmes.

He went further, saying that education is a “weapon for everything”. Pres. Zuma said, “Education is a treasure that cannot be taken away from you. When you get educated‚ you’re not just doing that for yourself [and] your family‚ but for the nation.”

Meanwhile, students who are facing legal charges following the fee protests in 2015 and 2016, are now calling for their charges to be dropped.

Amos “Amla” Monageng, an EFF Student Command leader, was arrested and charged with malicious damage to property, assault and incitement of violence in 2016. He was later indefinitely suspended from UP. Monageng was quoted on IOL’s website saying, “They should withdraw the charges unconditionally, given that the government has vindicated our cause by giving us free education. It means we were fighting a just cause.” Monageng also called for “those expelled from universities [to] go back.”

Sthembiso ka Shandu, former deputy president of Tshwane University of Technology’s Soshanguve campus, said, “The mere fact that President Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa now agree free education is feasible [meaning] there must be amnesty for students. Whatever we did, we believed it was in the best interest of the country’s students. Very soon everyone will enjoy the fruits of students who fought. If you’re expelled or jailed you won’t benefit from something you fought for.”

Gauteng Secretary of the Young Communist League, Alex Mdakane, said, “To continue with the prosecution and subsequent sentencing of #FeesMustFall activists is a subversion of justice. Their only crime was to call for free education for the poor.”

National Prosecution Authority (NPA) Gauteng spokesperson, Phindi Louw- Mjonondwane, said that the NPA will not drop the charges. Louw-Mjonondwane said, “[As] much as we agree that the protests were for a worthy cause, the NPA is however more concerned about the criminal elements that were detected during the protests. [It] would be failing in its mandate if it were to withdraw cases with evidence that acts of criminality may have been committed. The NPA respects the rights of citizens to protest, but those protests should be within the confines of the law.”

Rikus Delport, media spokesperson for UP, said, “In most of the cases that are currently being heard by the courts, the incidents happened off campus and the University was not involved. It is the view of the University of Pretoria that the NPA must decide whether or not there [is] sufficient information, witnesses and evidence available to prosecute in this matter. The University of Pretoria is not going to interfere with the decisions and/or processes of the NPA.”

 

Image: Anotidashe Mukombachoto

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