Justice ministry, students to work together on #FeesMustFall criminal charges

A #FeesMustFall student committee will be established to work with Justice Minister Michael Masutha on a plan to grant amnesty to protesters who face criminal charges.

On Monday, Masutha and #FeesMustFall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile held a joint press briefing in Pretoria after the two met on Friday outside Union Buildings.

Monday marked day seven of Khanyile’s protest outside the Union Buildings, where he has slept for almost a week in a bid to secure a presidential pardon for his conviction on charges of public violence for his involvement in #FeesMustFall activities at the Durban University of Technology.

Khanyile met with Masutha under the trees outside the Union Buildings after five days of sleeping rough in his one-man protest. An agreement has not been reached, Khanyile said, and the students remain adamant that amnesty must be granted to student protesters facing prosecution.

“We uncompromisingly demand that the president must also grant a general amnesty and pardon all Fees Must Fall activists. What the minister has said, it was a letter on law and more rhetorical which lacks facts on how we should therefore deal with the issues that we are faced with,” Khanyile said on Monday.

Masutha has said the students will provide his office with a list of names of protesters who have been convicted, are on trial, awaiting sentences, or are already in jail. The minister said he will help students to approach the National Prosecuting Authority in order to have these cases reviewed or to seek recommendations for diversions or restorative justice.

READ MORE: Students demand presidential pardon for #FeesMustFall charges

“The department of justice and constitutional development stands ready to begin with the process as soon as the students have submitted their applications with the relevant information,” Masutha said.

A presidential pardon, Masutha added, can only be granted if those who have been convicted or sentenced can provide reasonable information and “where the applicant has shown good cause”.

“Under no circumstances can a presidential pardon be predetermined,” Masutha explained.

Khanyile is set to be sentenced in October, but already there are others who participated in the student protests that are serving time in jail. Khaya Cekeshe was sentenced to eight years in Leeuwkop prison, three years of which were suspended, after he attempted to set a police car on fire during a protest in Braamfontein by students at the University of Witwatersrand.

Khanyile said the students are committed to working with Masutha to reach an agreement, but that if amnesty is not granted, students will take to the streets again.

“All students must be pardoned or else let’s meet on the streets,” Khanyile said. 

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.
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