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#FeesMustFall charges were politically motivated and concocted



Some activists in the movement are rewarded for their role in the struggle for free, decolonised education; others are imprisoned. Khanya Cekeshe, who has languished in prison for two years is among those who should be set free without delay

The status quo in South Africa seems to embody the words of Karl Marx: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.”

The youth of 1976, operating under the influence of black consciousness took to the streets and confronted the white, racist, apartheid regime head-on. One of the triggers for protest was the introduction of Afrikaans as medium of instruction, as a result of the Bantu Education Act of 1953, as legislated by the then government.

From 2015 and 2017 experienced a rise of the #FeesMustFall protest under the influence of black consciousness and African Nationalism ideology and or ideals. This time around students demanded free decolonised education, for all. A continuation of struggle from generations that came before us.

The Freedom Charter of 1955 stated that “Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all…”

The current political elite in charge of our government were once in a forefront of the struggle against apartheid. They fought tirelessly to remove the regime so that the ideals of the Freedom Charter could be realised. It is not only dumbfounding but also exasperating, when one realises that the same generation of liberators have assumed the position of former oppressors. They are purging opportunities for the youth, destroying their careers and prospects.

Khanya Cekeshe’s bail hearing is a reminder of the attitude the state has employed towards the youth of South Africa. Cekeshe has been languishing in prison for two years. He has a criminal record and the state is playing hide and seek when it has been approached about releasing him. Justice delayed is undeniably justice denied.

This is all happening at a time when the President Cyril Ramaphosa has on different occasions proudly spoken about how he was a student activist in the Black Consciousness tradition. This is also happening at the time when Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola is a relatively young person himself. With his radical rhetoric, one would expect him to understand our plight and to be sympathetic to the course we are pursuing. Instead, they are all after our heads.

The political elite use the same tactics as apartheid regime: divide and rule. One is reminded of freedom fighters such as Bruno Mtolo and Patrick Mthembu, individuals who were wooed into betraying their fellow comrades during difficult times of struggle. When the state was persecuting and jailing other freedom fighters, Mtolo and Mthembu were instead absolved by the then administration. They were granted their freedom and their lives were spared.

The #FeesMustFall movement was no different. It was infiltrated, the divide and rule tactic was employed and, once again, and the regime temporarily triumphed. Some #FeesMustFall activists are rewarded for their role in the struggle for free, decolonised education; others are imprisoned. Some enjoy their freedom and have been absolved by the current administration; others have criminal records, destroyed careers and a lifetime of trauma.

Cekeshe must be set free. The state shouldn’t even oppose bail, instead it should expunge his criminal record and withdraw the case. The charges against activists were political motivated and concocted in their majority. This is a fact, not an opinion.

For instance, when I was arrested on September 26 2016, I was charged with public violence. A few days after this, my case was forwarded to the provincial government and the charges multiplied. The original public violence charge led to 14 monotonous charges in total:

  1. Possession of explosives
  2. Hindering or obstructing traffic (September 27 2016, #FeesMustFall)
  3. Convening a gathering without notice (September27 2016, #FeesMustFall)
  4. Failing to comply with a provision relating to conduct at a gathering/demonstration
  5. Incitement to commit public violence (September 27 2016, #FeesMustFall)
  6. Public violence
  7. Assault with an intent to do grievous bodily harm
  8. Possession of a dangerous weapon
  9. Resisting a member of the police (September 27 2016, #FeesMustFall)
  10. Hindering or obstructing traffic (February 4 2016, #OutsourcingMustFall)
  11. Convening a gathering without notice (February 4 2016, #OutsourcingMustFall)
  12. Hindering or obstructing traffic (February 4 2016, #OutsourcingMustFall)
  13. Resisting a member of police (February 4 2016, #OutsourcingMustFall)
  14. Trespassing

Even a child can tell that these charges were bogus and fabricated. They are repetitive and senseless. Yet today I am serving a three-year house arrest. I now have a criminal record and am unemployable, despite the fact that I possess multiple qualifications. The state is, indeed, the enemy of the people.

Milan Kundera was on point when he wrote in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” We shall never forget what they have done and are doing to us, the people. Time fails no man.

Bonginkosi Khanyile is a political activist who is currently serving three years of house arrest. 

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