On Monday 14 October 2019 I was in good spirits as I drove to the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court for Kanya Cekeshe’s bail hearing.
I figured I could squeeze in the court sitting before I rushed to the airport for my work mission. I was also hoping that Cekeshe would see me in the crowd and it would remind him of our conversations where I told him to never fall apart no matter how difficult it has been in prison. It was also important that he knows that all Economic Freedom Fighters Kyalami Ward 132 branch members continue to support him, not only on a personal level but also because EFF advocates for free education. This is highlighted in Cardinal Pillar 4 of the EFF Founding Manifesto.
It was disappointing when a friend sent me a message that the hearing would be at 2pm. I left court and drove back home. Somehow, I had a premonition that he wouldn’t be getting good news at 2pm, but one wants to continue having confidence in the justice system.
As I’m checking in at the airport, a message comes through from one of our #FreeKanyaQekeshe chat groups, a very short message: “BREAKING NEWS Kanya Cekeshe Magistrate Carstens denies Cekeshe leave to appeal conviction and sentence.” I froze. I wondered what words of encouragement could be said to him once again, after so many glitches in his case.
The other time we spoke I said to him, “Don’t be discouraged, you have been in there so long, another postponement should not break you.”
He said, “Yes, Sis Milli I know, eventually I will be out of here. Just remember to bring me books to read.” I said I would, and I teased him that he must still use his braai skills in prison. He laughed and it lightened the harsh reality of yet another postponement.
Cekeshe likes to read, he is always asking me not to forget to bring him books and stationery. Cekeshe was moulded by another friend who was in the same prison block as him. The friend is the one who facilitated my first meeting with him. I remember how many times I disappointed them and didn’t manage to come. If you have never visited someone in prison, you will not understand that sometimes you will embark on that long journey to prison only to return without seeing the prisoner because of various rules, but that’s a story for another day… instead I want to talk about Cekeshe and how he adapted to prison life.
The first time I met him was on “family day”. I saw him at the braai stand, preparing meals. He didn’t seem to belong in this place, he stuck out like a fragile child in an adult’s world.
“When this young man first came to Leeuwkop [Prison], he seemed broken. He seemed like he had given up. I took him under my wing and told him that he is not going to fall apart in this place and that he had fought a noble fight for fees to fall, and he must always remember that. That is why I want you EFF members of Ward 132 to continue encouraging him to soldier on,” said the friend who had facilitated our meeting.
I listened and wondered what role we could play in Cekeshe’s life. The main thing was that he is in Leeuwkop Prison which falls within our ward and we had to, as a branch, continue to support him.
We support Kanya’s plight because we cannot understand how a fight for free education can be so harshly addressed.
We don’t have to understand the legal complexities of him having pleaded guilty; what we understand is that a young man with so much potential is wasting away in prison all because he chose to be part of those who said, “Fees must fall.”
We are not necessarily legal experts, but we are confused as to what threat he poses to not get bail and an opportunity to appeal his sentence. We have established that his previous legal team was not efficient, so we do not understand how that can be used against a young man who should still be at university. As a ward of EFF in Midrand, we will not stop advocating for Cekeshe’s freedom, otherwise we would have failed not only him, but the youth of this country.
I close my eyes and craft in my mind, the words of encouragement I’ll use on my next visit… but maybe it won’t be difficult, because Kanya is strong, more than the world will ever know. DM
"Censorship of anything at any time in any place on whatever pretence has always been and always will be the last resort of the boob and the bigot." ~ Eugene O'Neill