The EFF Student Command (EFFSC) is furious after Fees Must Fall activist Kanya Cekeshe was denied bail and his bid to appeal his conviction and eight-year sentence was dismissed.
“It is not a secret, in fact we are planning a national shutdown of the entire country until Kanya Cekeshe is set free. It cannot be that an innocent student is found guilty by fake judges for fighting a just cause,” EFFSC president Mandla Shikwambana told City Press after the verdict was delivered on Monday afternoon at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court.
“As the student command we will liaise with all branches of the EFFSC across the country in planning a shutdown and I can tell you that it is going to happen very soon”, Shikwabana said.
Cekeshe’s legal team – led by Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi and Wikus Steyl – indicated that it would be appeal Monday’s outcome to the high court after magistrate Theunis Carstens declined both applications made by the defence, stating that they would not be in the interest of justice.
Some of the arguments brought forward by the defence included that Cekeshe had received incompetent legal counsel and was not made fully aware of the process of his trial both by the legal counsel or the magistrate, and this infringed upon his right to a fair trial.
The defence also said they believed that Cekeshe was not only a victim of “incompetent lawyering” but maladministration.
The defence highlighted that there were loopholes in Cekeshe’s case – such as video footage which was said to have identified Cekeshe but was not presented before the court nor was he clearly identified from the footage.
The defence added that Cekeshe’s founding affidavit and statement had contradictions which were meant to be questioned during his trial but were not explored in court.
However the magistrate dismissed their arguments and said Cekeshe had ample opportunity to indicate if he was not comfortable with how his previous legal counsel had represented him.
He added that Cekeshe’s plea of guilt was grounds enough to convict him and that he believed no other court would disagree with his judgement.
Cekeshe’s uncle, Mnikelo Madala, told City Press that the family and Cekeshe’s friends were taken aback by the verdict.
“We had waited so long with the magistrate postponing and were hopeful for a positive outcome. Nonetheless we are disappointed in his verdict but what else can I say…we need to fight on and remain strong for Kanya,” said a teary-eyed Madala.
After the verdict was handed down, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola said on Twitter that his department would be assisting Cekeshe in writing a plea for a presidential pardon.
Steyl confirmed that Lamola’s chief of staff had contacted him.
He said he was surprised with how quickly the minster had reached out to him, especially since he had, on numerous occasions, attempted to write to the ministry and the president with no response.
The process to getting a presidential pardon would not be automatic, Steyl said, but would require filing of papers including letters of support from friends and family of Cekeshe.
He said he hoped this would be in effect by the end of the month.
After the verdict a crowd of students – largely from the EFFSC – gathered outside the court.
Many were in tears and consoling each another whilst another group continued to sing and place bins and rocks across the street on the entry way of the court.
Cekeshe, who has already served two years of his sentence, was present at the court and smiled and waved at his supporters and family.
After the court outcome he was returned to Leeuwkop prison where he will continue to serve his sentence.