Challenge to Gatherings Act could help arrested UCT students

2016-10-07 21:12
UCT student Hugo de Waal hugs his mom outside court after charges of public violence and malicious damage to property were withdrawn. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

UCT student Hugo de Waal hugs his mom outside court after charges of public violence and malicious damage to property were withdrawn. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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WATCH: Student leader boils over Biko Building eviction

2016-10-06 19:56

Student demonstrators at UCT heard how students were forced out of Steve Biko building.WATCH

Cape Town - The fate of seven students arrested during a protest at UCT in February could hinge on a constitutional challenge to the Gatherings Act by convicted sanitation protesters.

The students’ attorney, Sandile Xulashe, mentioned the impending challenge when they appeared in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

In the dock were Eskom chief executive officer Brian Molefe’s son Itumeleng, Sanchin Davids, Hugo de Waal, Kirsten Whitfield, Dumisani Ncubeni, Jonas Maepa and Neo Mancapa.

Athabile Nonxuba, who was charged separately from the group, stood in their place shortly afterward.

The first group was charged with public violence and malicious damage to property, after artworks were destroyed and two vehicles set alight on UCT’s campus earlier this year.

Valid charges

Nonxuba was charged with malicious damage to property, after allegedly damaging a UCT patrol vehicle.

They heard the director of public prosecutions had decided to proceed with the charges against all but one of the accused.

Charges were dropped against De Waal, a final-year engineering student, after representations were made. His parents, sitting behind him, sighed in relief. He later hugged his mother outside.

Xulashe convinced the court to postpone the criminal cases, pending the outcome of the High Court appeal, to confirm whether the charges against his clients were valid.

The State made it clear that it was sticking by the decision to prosecute.

Xulashe was referring to 10 Social Justice Coalition activists who were appealing their conviction for contravening the Regulation of Gatherings Act in 2013.

They chained themselves to the outside of the Cape Town Civic Centre three years ago to campaign for improved sanitation.

Their argument was that the "apartheid-era piece of legislation" was unconstitutional because it criminalised peaceful, unarmed, and non-disruptive protests.

The matter would likely be heard in the first term of 2017.

After the students took a few minutes to reach consensus on a suitable date for their next appearance, the court postponed their case until March 3.

Some of their supporters shook their heads when they heard the date.

"There is seriously no case here," one muttered.

Read more on:    uct  |  university protests  |  judiciary  |  university fees

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