EFF Student Command from Tshwane and Durban gather to support those planning to sleep outside Union Buildings in a bid to encourage President Cyril Ramaphosa to pardon all Fees Must Fall activists. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency/ANA

JOHANNESBURG - The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) on Wednesday called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to grant amnesty to all Fees Must Fall student activists.

NYDA chairperson Sifiso Mtsweni said: “We view the continued court proceedings, as well as conviction of student activists, as an anti-thesis for the struggle for a just and free education system which has been achieved.

“We do however condemn elements of violence and vandalism which we believe must be addressed. However, as a start, we call for the release of all arrested students and the expunge of their criminal records.”

Mtsweni said he has officially written to the president to consider the long-term effect of the charges on student leaders, but also to exercise prerogative and grant presidential pardons to all activists.

It was prudent for the country to begin engaging in dialogue on the nature and extent of protest actions in society Mtsweni added.

“We cannot afford that a just cause for free quality and decolonised education for an African child is overshadowed by mere elements of violence that we have witnessed in the past. It is therefore crucial that all stakeholders find lasting solutions for the betterment of our higher education,” he said.

Mtsweni  added that the embattled National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), as the institution responsible for the implementation of free education, must speedily resolve its challenges to avoid any possible student protest actions moving forward.

“We cannot underscore the importance of both the Ministry of Higher Education and Training and the Justice and Correctional Services in ensuring that all student activists are granted pardon and that planned dialogue sessions provide a much-needed solution as student demands are justified,” he said.

Last week student activist Mcebo Dlamini staged a walk to the Union Buildings in Pretoria from Wits University in Joburg to ask President Cyril Ramaphosa to grant a presidential pardon to arrested Fees Must Fall activists.

Fellow fees activist Bonginkosi Khanyile on Tuesday staged a sleep-out at the Union Buildings after taking a bus from Durban with his mother.

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African News Agency (ANA)