#FeesMustFall activist elated after his house arrest conditions have been relaxed

#FeesMustFall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile pleaded guilty to public violence, possession of a dangerous weapon, and two counts of failure to comply with police orders. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

#FeesMustFall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile pleaded guilty to public violence, possession of a dangerous weapon, and two counts of failure to comply with police orders. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

#FeesMustFall activist, Bonginkosi Khanyile, who is currently serving a three-year house arrest sentence, recorded a small victory this week after the department of correctional services relaxed the conditions of his house arrest.

Khanyile was sentenced to house arrest in January for his involvement in the #FeesMustFall protest at the Durban University of Technology in 2016.

He was charged with incitement to commit public violence, illegal gathering, possession of dangerous weapons (a slingshot),  obstructing traffic, causing a nuisance on public roads and possession of explosives.

Khanyile pleaded guilty to public violence, possession of a dangerous weapon, and two counts of failure to comply with police orders.

He was classified as ‘high risk’, which meant that police officers visited his house every day to check his whereabouts. He also had to visit the correctional services offices every month to be assessed, given counselling and provide a record of his community service work record.

Last week, his conditions were relaxed.
He is now classified as ‘medium risk’, which means police will check on him monthly and he will visit the correctional services offices for his assessments after every three months.

But the other conditions of his house arrest still stand. These include eight hours of community service a month — he does this through his church.

If he is not doing community work, he can only leave his home on Saturdays between 1pm and 2pm. That’s his free time. He can also attend church on Sundays from 8am to 12pm. Everything he does must be within the confines of the eThekwini district.

And if he has to travel outside of the province he has to get permission from correctional services.

Khanyile said that however small the victory might appear, it is a big deal for him.

He told the Mail & Guardian that: “As black people we are always celebrating the small strides we make. When you are giving phutu and fish for supper you celebrate because you would rather eat that than go to bed without having eaten. So we are fighting for our free movement, so when they say now you are medium risk,  to others it means nothing but to us it means a lot because the conditions were much harsher under high risk than they now are under medium risk.”

Khanyile is currently doing his master’s in public policy at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and this week he received a merit certificate for outstanding performance in the research and implementation module in semester one.

He told the M&G that receiving the certificate made him feel proud and confirms that there is nothing wrong with him, although the state was trying to paint him as someone with questionable behaviour who should be removed from society. “When you can excel under such conditions it makes me feel great.”

While being kept at the Durban Westville prison for six months before being released in March 2017, Khanyile also wrote his exam for the national diploma in public management and economics in prison and passed cum laude.

Bongekile Macupe

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