HIS battles with the law are far from over, but #FeesMustFall student activist Mcebo Dlamini is determined to keep fighting for arrested students to be granted amnesty.
Dlamini embarked on a gruelling 56.6km walk from Wits University to the Union Buildings on Friday to ask President Cyril Ramaphosa to release student activists arrested during #FeesMustFall protests that hit the country since 2015.
With only his cellphone and a letter addressed to the president in a brown bag, Dlamini set off on his journey at 10am on Friday. Along the way he posted on his Facebook page how far he was progressing.
He arrived at the Union Buildings at 8pm on the same day and succeeded in handing over his letter to a representative of the Presidency.
Dlamini said he undertook the journey as everyone seemed to be going on as usual while many students were battling heavy prosecutions.
Dlamini was arrested numerous times and been in and out of courtrooms for three years.
He was arrested in October 2016 and released on R2000 bail on November 9 by the South Gauteng High Court.
He said he took the decision to plead for amnesty on behalf of the students, not for self-glory, but because he along with other students were subjected to bail conditions that effectively isolated them.
“Many of us are not allowed to partake in 'illegal' gatherings or be part of mass protests so it means in short that we are now on our own.
“But it is also another way for us to protest, showing that we don't need masses or to damage property to get people to hear our issues.”
Dlamini said he and other students facing prosecutions were “dying” and nothing was being done to help them.
Most importantly, he said, he did not want to annoy the public by causing disruptions, but rather to get them talking, as well as raise sympathy for this important cause.
Of his journey Dlamini said it was long and difficult and many times he felt like giving up.
“I had no experience and had not done any training, so it was hard. But people on the road kept encouraging me telling me that I was close and others wanted to walk alongside me or offer me fruit and refreshments.”
The most important thing, he said, was that people were now talking about the problem - the seed he planted.
Dlamini yesterday posted on Facebook: “I have sent a letter to Adam Habib (vice-chancellor and principal of the University of the Witwatersrand) requesting that he takes a solidarity stand and call for amnesty and pardon of #FeesMustFall activists across the country.
“I also requested Wits academics/lecturers to march around Braamfontein in solidarity with students. Habib has requested time to go consult.”
He said he wrote to the chairpersons of the universities as many of the universities whose properties were damaged were the applicants in the cases students were facing.
Through Habib, he said he hoped he would be able to plead with the other universities to support the call for students amnesty.
Following the protests, more than 800 students were arrested.
They face a myriad of charges, including arson, public violence and malicious damage to property.
The Education for Social Justice Foundation has supported Dlamini's call and also asked Ramaphosa to feel sorry for students jailed subsequent to the protests.
Its deputy chairperson Hendrick Makaneta said they were appealing to the government to grant students amnesty so they can carry on with their studies. Makaneta said the foundation would be requesting a meeting with Ramaphosa to discuss issues regarding the entire terrain of higher education.
“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. The students did not anticipate that their actions would lead them to jail.
"They participated in the fees protests as a result of difficult circumstances that they found themselves in when they were studying," Makaneta said.
“We understand the seriousness of the charges fully, but our humble plea is that let's forgive the students and allow them to lead normal lives as the future of the country is in their hands.”