#FeesMustFall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile Picture: Anelisa Kukbheka

Pretoria - The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has thrown its weight behind prosecuted #FeesMustFall activists requesting amnesty from President Cyril Ramaphosa. 

This comes as convicted student activist Bonginkosi Khanyile announced he had arrived at the Union Buildings where he will stage a sleepout until Ramaphosa responds to his request for a presidential pardon. 

Khanyile pleaded guilty to four charges including public violence in the Durban Magistrate's Court last week.

Last week, Mcebo Dlamini walked from the University of Witwatersrand to the Union Buildings to hand over a letter also seeking amnesty from the president. 

Numsa in a statement demanded the unconditional release and scrapping of charges against all #FeesMustFall activists. 

"Students were forced to embark on protest action because the ANC-led government has consistently ignored them on the just demand for free, quality, de-colonised higher education. Several students have been charged and convicted for participating in those protests.

"The ANC government has used the police and judiciary to persecute, prosecute and jail students for fighting for free education, a perfectly legitimate demand found in the Freedom Charter. Thousands of working-class students participated in the public protests because they were being excluded from accessing education because it is so costly. They were violently assaulted and harassed by the police during the protests, and yet, not one officer has been arrested."

Numsa further said: "Khanyile’s conviction is unjustifiable. It is ridiculous in the extreme that a slingshot can be considered a dangerous weapon, when police officers are armed to the teeth, with R5 rifles, tear gas and all manner of weapons designed to kill. 

"This was the same excuse used by the Apartheid government to justify the brutality and mass murder of peaceful protesters in Sharpeville in 1960. Now it’s the ANC’s turn to oppress the African working class majority!"

The union called on the government to release activists currently jailed, awaiting trial and those whose trials are underway, adding that it would continue mobilising solidarity with these students nationally and internationally.