Convicted activist Mcebo Dlamini makes Sisulu paternity claim in court papers

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Mar 10, 2020

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Johannesburg - Mcebo Dlamini was on Monday convicted in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court for public violence related to criminal activities he took part in during the Fees Must Fall protests. 

The former student leader, who was also previously the chairperson of the SRC at Wits University, had been one of the more recognisable faces during violent student clashes with police around 2016, as thousands of students hit the streets and brought a temporary shutdown to academic institutions as they called for free education. 

But just as his guilty conviction was confirmed on Monday, Dlamini’s plea statement to the court made allegations again that he was the love child of Zwelakhe Sisulu, a former journalist from the Sisulu family. 

In 2014, Dlamini, who was known as ‘Mcebo Olyate Sisulu’ at the time, was exposed in a Wits Vuvuzela report for lying about his Sisulu roots. He had also previously claimed to be the son of former National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu as well as being the holder of an actuarial science and nuclear physics degree. 

Dlamini faced six counts, but he has been convicted on two counts, public violence and violating the country’s immigration act. He pleaded guilty to both charges. 

On pleading guilty for violating the immigrations act, Dlamini said in his plea statement which was submitted in court, that he was born in Mbabane, Swaziland, to Witness Nkosingiphile Dlamini, a South African woman from Vryheid, KwaZulu-Natal. 

He also claimed in his plea statement that he was the son of Zwelakhe Sisulu. This has been denied by the Sisulu family in the past. 

Despite pleading guilty to contravening the immigration act, Dlamini said he still aimed to show cause that he was worthy of his South African citizenship. 

Student activist and #FeesMustFall leader Mcebo Dlamini addressed students outside Parliament, pleading for amnesty for those who have been sentenced and those who are still to face trial for the fees march. File picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

He explained in his plea statement: “Due to financial difficulties my mother was unable to properly care for me and she travelled to South Africa to seek employment. I remained in Swaziland and was effectively raised by my aunt, Sichenge Nomkhosi Dlamini and her husband Ntshintshabantu Dlamini, whom I believed to be my biological parents.

“I initially applied for and obtained a student visa in 2012 to undertake studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.  Prior to that, I had been living in South Africa on a continuous basis since the year 2002.

“With the passing of time Witness Nkosingiphile Dlamini, who was a South African citizen and who has subsequently passed away, revealed to me that she was in fact my biological mother.  It is not disputed that she was a bona fide South African citizen born of South African parents in Vryheid, Kwazulu-Natal.

“My mother, Witness Nkosingiphile Dlamini, further informed me that my real father was the late Zwelakhe Sisulu,” he said.

Max Sisulu has in the past told Wits Vuvuzela he knew nothing of Dlamini. 

Meanwhile, Dlamini said his mother had applied for a SA ID number for him and this was issued. But after his arrest during the student protests, Home Affairs conducted an investigation into his citizenship. 

“Due to what the Department of Home Affairs deemed discrepancies in the manner in which my identity number was issued to me, they requested me to subject myself to a DNA test to ensure that I was the biological child of a South African citizen and therefore a South African citizen by descent.

“My legal representative received correspondence from the DHA on the 30th of May 2017 which indicated that I and my biological mother had 14 days to subject ourselves to the necessary DNA tests.

“Due to my negligence I failed to timeously submit myself to the necessary DNA test.  Unfortunately, during that period, my mother passed away in May 2018 before such tests could be conducted and while I was busy with my legal studies.

“As a result of my failure, the Department of Home Affairs subsequently revoked my status as a South African Citizen as well as my identity number,” he said.

“Although I still intend to prove to the Department of Home Affairs that I am the biological child of Witness Nkosingiphile Dlamini and therefore entitled to South African citizenship, I accept that, legally speaking, my failure to do so timeously has made me guilty of contravening the provisions of section 49(1)(a) of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002 on the basis of strict liability,” he said.

Dlamini told the court he was aware of the options available to him, regarding his status, namely, that he could request a ministerial review for his citizenship, request to be exempt from ordinary requirements as he had no family in eSwatini and that he could be issued with a temporary permit to remain in the country pending a decision.

PUBLIC VIOLENCE

On his public violence conviction, he admitted to being part of a group of students who interrupted classes on October 4, 2016, at Wits University.  

“Along with my co-perpetrators, I embarked on protest action aimed, inter alia, at the University of the Witwatersrand and the fees charged to undertake tertiary education.  As a result of the #feesmustfall movement, the government agreed to offer free tertiary education for poor students.

“Acting in concert with my co-perpetrators, during the said protest, we unlawfully assembled with a common intent to forcibly disturb the public peace and invade the rights of other persons by unlawfully and intentionally disrupting the academic activities of the University of the Witwatersrand.

“What started out as a legitimate and lawful protests escalated into public violence when as a direct result of protest action, the academic activities of the university were disrupted as numerous students, that were not involved in the protest, were prevented from attending classes.  

“I therefore freely and voluntarily admit that my actions, whilst I was acting in concert with the protesters, unlawfully and intentionally invaded the rights of others by preventing them from attending academic lectures.

“During the act of committing public violence a Lieutenant Colonel Dekker attempted to arrest me. A scuffle between myself and Dekker took place and then without knowing what was happening, I noticed a small group of the protesting students attack and assault Dekker, causing him to suffer blunt force injuries. 

“I wish to unreservedly apologise to the S.A.P.S. and Lieutenant Colonel Dekker in respect of any wrong done to them during the course of my involvement in the protest,” he said. 

Dlamini received a suspended five year sentence for his two convictions. The convictions mean he cannot practice law in the country. 

Video: Sandisiwe Ntlemeza/African News Agency (ANA)

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