Student activists are continuing to put pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa. They want the President to grant amnesty to students who were charged or convicted as a result of violent Fees Must Fall protests.
The students have marched to the gates of Parliament as President Ramaphosa was answering questions in the National Assembly. Student activists are not relenting as they continue to pressure the President to grant amnesty to over 150 students who are facing charges related to fees must fall protests.
One of the convicted students, Bonginkosi Khanyile, is currently staging a sleep in at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Just last week another activist, Mcebo Dlamini, walked from Wits University to the Union Buildings to hand over a memorandum on the same issue.
Meanwhile, dozens of students took the amnesty protests to Parliament to intensify the battle.
“We are asking the President to exercise his judicial power to pardon us, give students amnesty. Of course we use pardon and amnesty separately because we understand their implications. Amnesty means that we so accept that the conditions in which protest happened was a moment of conflict and we understand that students are showing remorse but we must forgive them for the purposes of restorative justice,” says student activist Masixole Mlandu.
The students’ call is gaining momentum.
“Maybe access to higher education regarding funding is a problem and this is what the whole fees must fall movement was about. So why then continue to have charges against the leaders who brought you to this decision in the first place,” says Wits Black Academics Caucus Dr Busi Mkhwanazi.
Universities South Africa, a body representing higher learning institutions, says while it is open to dialogue there are some concerns.
“There is a case to be made the big question is …which students will be pardoned and which not? For example if there was burning of buildings…exactly which students are being pardoned and what for,” says University South Africa’s Professor Ahmed Bawa.
The Presidency however says its hands are tied on the matter. Although it sympathises with the activists, it says it cannot interfere with the work of the prosecuting authority.
However, it indicated it appreciated the objectives of the Fees Must Fall protests.
“What is being asked for is that the President interfere with the decisions of the National Prosecuting Authority where the NPA would have decided to prosecute those students for alleged criminal activities. The President cannot be in a position to do that. However, we are calling upon all parties that are affected , the students, the justice department to sit and engage on this issue and spell out the processes that are available within the law in order to meet the demands of the students,” says Presidency Spokesperson Khusela Dika.
The Presidency says it will respond to the activists calls in due course.
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