Fees Must Fall activist Kanya Cekeshe has spent his second Christmas in jail but Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi hopes to ensure that he doesn’t spend another one behind bars.
He has joined the fight with Wikus Steyl from Ian Levitt Attorneys in the hopes of appealing Cekeshe’s eight-year sentence.
The ex-Footprint Media Academy student is still serving his five-year jail term in Leeuwkop prison for burning a police van in Braamfontein at the height of the Fees Must Fall protests in 2016.
Cekeshe’s family says they have high hopes of the new legal team including renown South African lawyer and author of the book The Land Is Ours: South Africa’s First Black Lawyers and the birth of Constitution.
Ngcukaitobi also formed part of the EFF legal team arguing for the state capture report to be released in the North Gauteng High Court and also worked with the international legal team representing the major opposition political party in Zimbabwe after the deadly elections.
Strides have been made to pressure the state to pardon activists who were charged for their part in the movement, including petitions and walks across provinces, and pleas for a presidential pardon.
Speaking to City Press on behalf of the legal team, Steyl said the student’s family and friends approached the firm for their assistance.
“The Fees Must Fall movement was this generation’s ‘struggle’ and was successful in obtaining its desired outcome. Kanya is now being severely prejudiced for fighting for the benefit of thousands of students who couldn’t afford tertiary education and who were turned away by the government.
“Whilst we cannot comment on Kanya’s previous lawyer’s handling of the matter, we believe that mistakes were made by various interested persons in presenting Kanya’s defence. Our office is now in the process of applying for leave to appeal the sentence and do we believe that on the merits, Kanya’s appeal should hopefully succeed if heard by a competent Court,” Steyl adds.
Ntando Cekeshe, Kanya’s father, told City Press the matter was now a legal battle.
“We can’t fight law in the media. There has to be a separation.”
We ask how his visits to his son have been, and he lets out a warm laugh.
“We as the family go and see him monthly. We are there. Even the warders know us. He’s doing fine, he hasn’t given up and is still in good spirits. He talks about the future and other stuff outside of the institution he’s in. He teaches English to other inmates every Tuesday and I think Wednesdays, he’s part of a prayer group and does art, but he says he gets frustrated by the other inmates because they say they don’t want to learn English,” Cekeshe says, laughing.
“We remind him that this is not a full stop in his life but a comma. We take him stationery and books and tell him to stay busy.”
City Press reached out to other activists who were serving sentences and awaiting trial.
• Amla Monageng, a second-year BCom Informatics student, was suspended from the University of Pretoria in September 2016 after the Afrikaans Must Fall protest.
He was arrested and sentenced at the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court in February 2018 after being convicted on charges of public violence and assaulting a fellow student during the Fees Must Fall protest.
He was sentenced to house arrest.
“I’m excited and will finish the imposed sentence on the 14th of February. It has been long journey. It wasn’t easy but I managed to remain focused.”
Monageng says house arrest has affected his activism because he was on strict observation.
“I had to report at the correctional service office once in a month, do community service on weekends, attend the programmes of social worker with little movement. This has been my life for the past 11 months. I was monitored by the probation officer who would just pop by at my place without notifying me. I wasn’t allowed to consume alcohol and go out. My activism has been badly affected because I could not do many things.”
We asked Monageng about the sentencing of Bonginkosi Khanyile, who was sentenced last Monday in the Durban Magistrates’ Court to three years’ house arrest and ordered to submit himself to rehabilitation programmes and pay a R5000 fine or alternatively be jailed up to three years.
“His sentence is a clear indication that the current government doesn’t care about the youth. The sitting government is anti-black, the struggle for free education was the struggle which was advancing black agenda and they acceded to some of the demands that we made yet prosecute us. We’re happy that the sentence didn’t break him and we’ll continue the struggle to free him and other affected activists, such as Khanya Cekeshe.”
While Monageng anticipates his freedom he said he would be going back to revive his activism and further his studies.
• About to complete his community service, University of Cape Town student, Masixole Mlandu says he was a casualty of what he still describes as being a genuine cause.
“I got 150 community hours and I had about 10 counselling sessions. I appeared on the 21st of January to see if I couldn’t get my case off the roll. But I’m going back to court in February hoping that all will turn out in our favour.
Mlandu believes Khanyile’s sentencing could have been avoided had the state conceded to the demands of the Fees Must Fall movement.
Going forward Mlandu indicates that there may be a reconciled action by the Fees Must Fall movement and describes access to Institution of higher learning as still being a mission for the poor.
“Free education has not been realised in our country; most of all our demands have not been met. The more things change the more they have remained the same. All institutions have reversed from their initial stance and we are still expected to explain our poverty and write long affidavits. We hope that victimisation of student leaders will bring us together and we will consolidate as a movement.”