Equal Education Says Release Students Now!
Equal Education notes with great concern reporting by The Daily Vox on 18 October that almost 600 people have been arrested this year in #FeesMustFall-related protests. We also note the pattern emerging in decisions of Magistrate’s Courts around the country in denying student leaders bail.
At a time when South Africa is asking itself difficult questions on how to create an equal, just, and decolonised society, lower courts continue where the Apartheid courts left off. Student protestors are being treated as criminals for demanding what multiple generations of students before them have been repeatedly promised and repeatedly denied by multiple generations of dishonest officials and political elites.
Equal Education views these decisions by the courts as yet another highly unfortunate continuation of the role that South Africa’s judicial system has played historically in the criminalisation of protest by black people. We urge the courts to recognise that their role in a truly democratic state needs to be that of resolving conflict with a view to the creation of a just society, not of quashing radical protest and criminalising dissent.
We again urge students to exercise caution and restraint, and encourage them to remain disciplined and resolute in the face of police brutality. The State has been at the forefront of persecuting students – we condemn this and ask for President Jacob Zuma and Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande to show leadership and to intervene in the victimisation of students around the country.
We appeal to the Judge Presidents of all provinces to urgently convene a meeting with all magistrates who will be overseeing #FeesMustFall matters, to urgently agree on how to appropriately handle these cases. While we know to expect nothing much from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) led by Shaun Abrahams, we urge people of conscience in the NPA to act with integrity when dealing with students who stand accused, and to not oppose bail applications.
We know too well that once protests become criminalised this is a pathway towards an authoritarian state quelling all manner of dissent. We once more reiterate that South Africa can deliver free quality education for the poor as a start, and convert the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) into a grant scheme.
Issued by Ntuthuzo Ndzomo, Equal Education Deputy General Secretary, 19 October 2016