MEC reveals who is footing bill for Wits accused

Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Education has been paying fees for former Wits University student representative council leader Mcebo Dlamini, who was arrested in connection with violent protests for free education.

This was revealed by Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi during a briefing at a Secondary School Intervention Programme in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Former Wits SRC president Mcebo Dlamini applies for bail in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on Tuesday. The #FeesMustFall leader faces charges relating to his involvement in violent protests at Wits. Picture: Chris Collingridge. Credit: Independent Media

“We (the Gauteng government) sponsor Mcebo Dlamini to study LLM, and now he is in prison,” Lesufi said.

The 32-year-old Dlamini, who was arrested at his Wits residence in the early hours on Sunday, faces charges of public violence, theft, malicious damage to property and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

When asked what criteria were used to give Dlamini a bursary, Lesufi said: “We offer R208m in university bursaries. We have an agency called the Gauteng City Region, a skills development agency, and people apply (for bursaries) based on academic progress, scarce skills and financial status. He applied like any other person.”

He said Dlamini had been receiving the bursary since the beginning of this year, when he enrolled for his degree.

When asked if Dlamini met the criteria, Lesufi said it was the Gauteng City Region’s task to assess and approve the applications. When asked if they would consider reviewing or suspending Dlamini’s bursary because of the serious charges he faces, Lesufi said: “The bursary has its own regulations, including attending classes, and writing and passing exams."

Lesufi pleaded with #FeesMustFall negotiators to resolve the matter speedily to allow matriculants the opportunity to study at public universities next year.

“I’m scared and fearing the worst… We need to be sure that they will be in a position to apply and be admitted to higher education institutions (next year),” Lesufi said.

“The reality is dawning on us of having a generation that might not be able to receive higher education. But we are confident that parties involved will try to resolve the matter.”

Although his department has not spoken to Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande about the matter, Lesufi said the situation was of serious concern.

“We are quite ready as a province and plan to crack it this year. We want any percentage over the Western Cape,” Lesufi said.

Gauteng has registered a total of 153 973 Grade 12 learners, which is the second highest number of candidates in the country. KwaZulu-Natal leads with 169 661 matriculants.

Meanwhile, Dlamini’s bail application was postponed in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday. Magistrate Albertus Roux said he would hand down his ruling on Wednesday, after reviewing all arguments.

Prosecutor Steven Rubin had opposed Dlamini’s application, saying he was a flight risk and might go to Swaziland where he was born, and he had misled the court when he said he had a test to write on Tuesday.

Rubin said the State was in possession of footage showing the #FeesMustFall leader in possession of dangerous weapons, referring to sticks and stones, and said the State also have a photograph of Dlamini attacking a police officer.

In his affidavit, Dlamini clarified his age and indicated that he is actually 30 years old and not 32 as was previously reported. His lawyer, Mongezi Ntanga, said Dlamini only knew his real age when he was reunited with his mother later in his life, as he was raised by his aunt.

Dlamini said he had no intention of fleeing the country because he was still a student at Wits and it would be political suicide to go against the court. He was also willing to hand in his passport, he said.

He also denied assaulting a police officer as the State indicated; instead he said he was the victim in the situation.

Wits students and workers gathered outside the court to show Dlamini support. Vuyani Pambo, who has also been in the forefront of #FeesMustFall protests, appeared upset with the case's postponement.

"There is no interest in justice, you can see from the attitude of the prosecutor they are nonchalant with what’s happening here. They don’t see any emergency of the case, they don’t see any emergency about the state of the state.

“Why is that in a country of so many illiterate people that free, quality, decolonised education could be a secondary issue and the president is constantly out of the country,” Pambo said.