South Africa

Tertiary education

No solid agreement reached over demand for amnesty for #feesmustfall activists

Archive photo: A #FeesMustFall protester addresses thousands of UCT students and staff. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks/(GroundUp) Main photo: A #FeesMustFall protester addresses thousands of UCT students and staff who want the institution to reopen on Monday. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Justice Minister Michael Masutha and student activist Bonginkosi Khanyile held a joint press conference in Pretoria with a link-up to the Imbizo Media Centre in Parliament, Cape Town, over a demand for amnesty for #feesmustfall student activists

Justice Minister Michael Masutha and a Durban University of Technology graduate, Bonginkosi Khanyile were both present at a press briefing on Monday morning, though Khanyile refused to share a stage with the minister. The student activist declined, saying that he felt that the ministry has not made any real commitment towards helping the students.

The press briefing following protest action that included activists Philani Gazuzu and Khanyile and his mother spending, six days camped outside the Union Buildings in an effort to get amnesty from the President for students who were involved during the #feesmustfall protests at universities across the country.

Student activists are demanding that suspended, expelled, arrested and sentenced students be granted a presidential pardon.

Khanyile said: “Besides the fact that the minister has not made any clear commitments in responding to our demands, even when he met us under the tree, he spoke at length but the specifics were missing.”

Khanyile felt that what the minister had said lacked facts on how the current issue could be dealt with. “All that happened during the #feesmustfall was as a result of the conditions on the ground,” says Khanyile, adding that all students should be pardoned as the government had noted the necessity of free education.

Masutha suggested that the students get together and provide a list of all those affected.

According to an article by BIZ Newsover 500 people were arrested in 2016 in connection with campus protest action. Masutha said that each case would be evaluated individually and that the ministry would assist them in approaching the National Prosecuting Authority.

Providing clarity on who exactly can be granted a presidential pardon Masuthu said: “The presidential pardon is only applicable to those convicted and sentenced.”

With minor offences, it was possible that people could be made to take responsibility for their actions outside the justice system. “This, however, does not mean that people are not made to take accountability for their actions,” he said, explaining that “it just means that they do so outside the justice system, so you won’t have a trial, conviction or sentence”.

Despite feeling that the minister had not responded adequately to the demands of the students, Khanyile said that as student activists, “we (students) are committed to working with him”.DM


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