There will be no blanket amnesty for students convicted after the 2016 Fees Must Fall protest. That’s according to Justice Minister Michael Masutha.
However his department will assist student activists seeking pardon.
Activists believe this is political speak and does not address their key demand.
Student activists ramped up pressure on government and some have trekked long distances to the Union Buildings, while others have been camping outside.
Now the justice ministry is committing to assist students within the ambit of the law.
Michael Masutha says: “The ministry has undertaken to assist the students in approaching the National Prosecuting Authority to consider evaluating each case, specifically in order to determine the seriousness.”
For students that have already been convicted, the Justice Ministry says it will guide them in applying for presidential pardons.
Despite Minister Masutha’s announcement to assist Fees Must Fall students seeking presidential pardons, some of the students say they are not satisfied and they want immediate pardoning for all.
Convicted student activist Bonginkosi Khanyile says: “The minister comes and he becomes a typical politician, he lectures us about the constitution and other issues. We are saying we want all Fees Must Fall activists to be given amnesty and be pardoned.”
“He says he is going to look at individual cases, we said there must be general amnesty and pardoning to all fees must fall.”
While Fees Must Fall protests succeeded in their call for free education, they came at a high price. Initial estimates by former Higher Education minister Blade Nzimande early in 2017 said damages could reach a billion rands. However, earlier this month, current Higher Education minister Naledi Pandor, in a parliamentary response, said damages stood at around R800 million.
Minister Masutha says other forms of restorative justice can be used instead outright criminal prosecution.
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