South Africa

South Africa

#FeesMustFall: Let’s have a TRC for students arrested during fees protests, say marchers to Parliament

#FeesMustFall: Let’s have a TRC for students arrested during fees protests, say marchers to Parliament

Students from universities across the Western Cape marched to Parliament on Tuesday calling for a commission similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to allow for cases against students and workers arrested during fees protests to be dropped. By SUNÉ PAYNE.

On Tuesday, about 100 students marched from the Cape Town campus of CPUT towards Parliament, and handed over a memorandum that called for cases against student activists to be dropped and for a TRC-like commission to be held, where students could freely speak about what their experiences were during the past three years of #FeesMustFall protests.

The march also marked the launch of a campaign led by student groups such as the Pan Africanist Students Movement of Azania (PASMA) and #FeesMustFall Western Cape, which called for a moratorium on cases that are still pending against students arrested during the fees protests that erupted nationally in October 2015.

Masixole Mlandu, a political science and sociology student from the University of Cape Town would benefit from such a moratorium.

He originally faced four charges, but this was reduced to one charge which will be heard in the Wynberg Regional Court in May.

We didn’t just wake up and burn things. There was a reason we burned things,” he told Daily Maverick.

I lost a whole academic year in 2016… my family was stressed,” he said.

We can’t be hired anywhere in the country because when you Google our names, our faces pop up. Masixole Mlandu- criminal. Masixole Mlandu- arrested,” said Mlandu, who believed the biggest consequence of being arrested is the possibility of not being able to find employment due to the stigma of having a court case against him.

Mlandu is due to graduate from UCT on Friday.

According to Mlandu, the reason for the march was to not only call for a commission similar to the TRC, but to make society aware that some student activists if jailed for their protest activities could find themselves alongside rapists and murderers.

In March 2018, Daily Maverick highlighted the case of student activist Khanya Cekeshe, who was sentenced to eight years in jail.

Another student who faces the possibility of jail is PASMA’s national deputy president, UCT student Athabile Nonxuba.

Addressing students at the march, Nonxuba said “it’s unfair to go to Pollsmoor (Prison in Cape Town) to fight for freedom”.

Nonxuba is due to graduate in December, but still faces charges relating to fee protests.

PASMA has called for a commission similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the 1990s, saying that the commission helped to foster peace and harmony as well as allowed for the confession of acts of criminality and degradation against black South Africans. Those who took the opportunity to reveal all and whose testimony was found to be truthful received amnesty for their crimes.

PASMA is of the view that a similar process should be engaged upon to address the plight of their members and other members of #FeesMustFall,” the organisation’s memo reads.

PASMA believes their cause was just as it had resulted in the provision of free higher education.

In their memorandum handed over to the Departments of Higher Education and Training, Justice as well and the National Prosecuting Authority, they call for student and insourcing activists to be viewed as victims of a just cause.

Noluthando Sofoyiya from the Department of Higher Education and Training took the memorandum, signed it and assured the protesters that the document would be handed to the relevant officials. DM

Daily Maverick has done a reflective look back on what happened to student activists after the events of #FeesMustFall, including those who have graduated and those who are still facing court cases against them.

They are available here:

  • Fees Must Fall: Free education is here, but where are the students who fought for it? – Daily Maverick
  • No Filter, Volume 4: Shackville two years on – a perspective from the student who graduated – Daily Maverick

Photo: Protesters marched to Parliament on Tuesday, 4 April 2018, calling for a TRC-like process instead of a criminal process for students. Photo: Suné Payne


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