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Fees Must Fall activist should never have pleaded guilty, says new lawyer

2019-10-01 19:44

The legal representatives of Fees Must Fall activist Kanya Cekeshe believe that his previous legal team misled him and he should not have pleaded guilty because the state had no evidence of any wrongdoing.

Cekeshe, who was sentenced to eight years for malicious damage to property at the height of the student protests three years ago, has been at the Leeuwkop Prison since December 2017.

Today his legal team, led by Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi and Wikus Steyl from Ian Levitt Attorneys, was in the Johannesburg High Court to apply for him to be released on bail pending an appeal of his conviction and sentence.

The Fees Must Fall activist received an eight-year prison sentence with three years suspended after pleading guilty to burning a police van in 2016 at the height of the Fees Must Fall protests.

Cekeshe’s legal representatives told City Press that they believed Cekeshe was misled by his previous legal team and that he should not have pled guilty as the state had no evidence of any wrong doing.

Terrible counsel

Steyl told City Press: “The first mistake I can see is Kanya was not advised on the consequences of pleading guilty. I don’t mean to badmouth my colleague. I do not know him, but the legal representative, even from the court documents, admitted in court that criminal practice only constitutes 20% of his practice.”

Steyl said the previous counsel made numerous errors, including interrupting the magistrate.

“He didn’t know the processes, he didn’t know the day periods. He absolutely knew nothing. He convinced Kanya to plead guilty without explaining the consequences of pleading guilty,” Steyl added.

He said the state was not able to prove its criminal element.

“Had he not pleaded guilty he wouldn’t be in jail today because the state would not have been able to prove the elements. They would not have been able to convict him of setting the police van on fire,” he said.

The former Footprint Media Academy student has spent two years of his five-year jail term in Leeuwkop prison.

Settlement agreement

The court appearance began at 10am and was adjourned shortly after the state indicated that it had not filed its papers.

At 2pm the court resumed, and a settlement agreement was reached between Cekeshe’s legal team and the National Prosecuting Authority.

The agreement concluded that the NPA would cooperate by accompanying Cekeshe’s legal representatives on October 1 and 2 to the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court to secure a date for the hearing of the application for bail pending the appeal.

Cekeshe’s legal team said they hoped that the matter would be heard as soon as Friday.

“Today we brought an urgent bail application after getting nowhere with the NPA. We were forced to bring it urgently and luckily we got answers from the NPA and the court today. They have agreed to assist us to bring his bail application, they will reconstruct the missing transcripts and they will requisition Kanya to come to court hopefully as soon as Friday”, Steyl said.

Free Kanya

Crowds of students, members of the public and Economic Freedom Fighters members of Parliament were present at the court appearance.

EFF MP Kenny Motsamai told City Press he had raised Cekeshe’s matter with the minister of justice and correctional services, Ronald Lamola, and would follow up after the court outcome.

Motsamai added that he would also help Cekeshe request a presidential pardon.

Leading the crowd, the president of the EFF student command Mandla Shikwambana said the sentencing of the Fees Must fall activist was unjust and unfair.

“There are many activists whose cases were dismissed, some have been given suspended sentences while others are on house arrest. Why was his matter treated differently? As the student command we are here to ask that the court treat Kanya in the same manner as other convicted activists. He was fighting a just cause, one which has not been fully realised, and others have become beneficiaries of it. So why should he languish in jail?”


Zamayirha Peter
Journalist
City Press
p:+27 11 713 9001
w:www.citypress.co.za  e: Zamayirha.Peter@citypress.co.za
      
 
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February 16 2020