A SECOND call has been made for President Cyril Ramaphosa to pardon and drop charges against students who remain in jail for crimes related to the #FeesMustFall protests.
This time, students from Pretoria and Durban affiliated to the EFF Student Command gathered at the Union Buildings to state their case.
They said they were going to sleep there to drive home their message.
Bonginkosi Khanyile, a convicted Durban University of Technology student who will be sentenced in October, was joined by his mother Phumzile Khathini, who carried a blanket and a mattress.
The group said they wanted Ramaphosa to recognise that the future of those who fought for free tertiary education - already being phased in - was at his mercy.
The students said the country had a lot of serious crime and “real” criminals hurting people were more deserving of imprisonment than the students who participants of the 2015 and 2016 demonstrations.
The National Prosecuting Authority found Khanyile guilty of public violence, failing to comply with a police instruction and possession of a dangerous weapon. He will be sentenced on October 16.
#FreeBonginkosi Committee spokesperson Philani Nduli said the sleep-out was not just for Khanyile, but for all students dealing with the unnecessary consequences of #FeesMustFall.
“This is for students who have been sentenced, those still attending court and those expelled from universities for fighting for a just cause. We live in a country where apartheid crimes and criminals are forgiven, but we cannot pardon poor students,” said Nduli.
The students said it was frustrating and stressful to be put on trial for fighting for their right to equal education. However, they were happy that for 2018, first-year students started to benefit from free education as a result of the sacrifices made.
“President Ramaphosa, please do not allow this government to punish our children for this. They did not kill or rape anyone. Surely there are more serious crimes that need more attention,” said Khathini.
The Education for Social Justice Foundation joined the call and asked Ramaphosa to give the students amnesty for the sake of the well-being of their families who remained impoverished.
Deputy chairperson Hendrick Makaneta said: “We pray for sanity to prevail and for the president to find it in his heart to listen to our plea and allow these young lives to flourish.
“They participated in the fees protests as a result of difficult circumstances that they found themselves in when they were studying.
“Some of them did not have basic amenities such as food to survive the most demanding conditions at various institutions of higher learning, especially universities.”
By late sunset yesterday, no government official had gone out to speak to the students.
Last week, former Wits University SRC president Mcebo Dlamini walked from Joburg to the Union Buildings to deliver a letter addressed to Ramaphosa in which he too called for amnesty for student leaders. He is due to stand trial for alleged crimes committed during the #FeesMustFall unrest.