DEGREES, NOT CRIMINAL RECORDS: Student activist and #FeesMustFall leader Mcebo Dlamini addresses the students who picketed outside Parliament yesterday, pleading for amnesty for those who have been sentenced and those who have yet to stand trial.Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Police officers formed a human barrier outside Parliament as hundreds of students gathered and called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to provide amnesty to those convicted of crimes during the #FeesMustFall protests.

The students, who marched up Plein Street holding boards saying “Degrees not criminal records”, and “Please grant us amnesty”, said despite the announcement that fees would fall, students still faced persecution and jail sentences. This was affecting their studies and mental health.

The students created a memorandum demanding a commission of inquiry for those arrested or dismissed during the protests as opposed to facing criminal charges.

“At UCT we have an Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission working on amnesty and bringing people back. If our university can do this as a public institution, why can’t it be followed at other schools and have everyone back at school?

Video: Lubabalo Poswa/African News Agency (ANA)

“We had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission process done in 1994 and South Africa was able to forgive white people for crimes against humanity, so why can’t they forgive students fighting for a right they believe in? Why are people being incarcerated for what we believe in?” said UCT student Khululwa Mthi.

Songezo Mazizi, who was at the University of the Western Cape during the action, said he was arrested five times during past protests and still faces court hearings and postponements, which hindered his ability to continue his studies.

“Comrades of mine are still going to cases. Some are suspended and expelled even. We’re pleading with the president to provide political amnesty. A comrade of ours in Durban was sentenced (to) eight years in prison and was found guilty of various acts,” said Mazizi.

Azania Tyhali from UWC said students were pleading as many still faced charges which had affected their academic progress and also psychologically well-being.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha came out to speak to the students and accepted the memorandum outside Parliament. Masutha said people facing charges could be helped through official application to his department, but President Ramaphosa could not address criminal cases.

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Cape Argus