Court told State ‘using a sledgehammer to kill a rat’ EFF blames ‘political influences’

2016-12-21 10:22
DUT Fees Must Fall student leader Bonginkosi Khanyile’s defence attorney Tembeka Ngcukaitobi surrounded by adoring EFF supporters outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday.

DUT Fees Must Fall student leader Bonginkosi Khanyile’s defence attorney Tembeka Ngcukaitobi surrounded by adoring EFF supporters outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday. (Amil Umraw)

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Tensions ran high on Tuesday when the lawyer for Durban University of Technology student and Fees Must Fall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile argued his bail appeal.

The EFF-affiliated Fees Must Fall student leader, who the party says is the only student in South Africa who is still behind bars for his part in the violent campus protests this year, has spent more than 80 days in jail since his arrest on September 27.

Khanyile faces a host of charges including illegal gathering, public violence and trespassing — to name a few.

In his last appearance in Durban, magistrate Jackie Jonck refused him bail.

On Tuesday, in a Pietermaritzburg high court gallery packed with Khanyile’s supporters and EFF comrades, his defence lawyer, advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, argued against Jonck’s decision after an urgent appeal was lodged. Debating the reasons why Khanyile was previously denied bail, Ngcukaitobi said there was no inquiry held into Khan­yile’s alleged violation of a court warning handed down to him in February this year. That warning, and its conditions prohibiting Khanyile from participating in or encouraging illegal gatherings and protests, was handed down when he was detained after Fees Must Fall violence flared up at the beginning of this year.

Ngcukaitobi said the possibility of Khanyile endangering the safety of the public if he were to be released has not been substantiated with evidence.

He said there was no evidence that the gatherings Khanyile attended were unlawful, that the stones he allegedly fired from a slingshot at police and security were actually directed toward them, and that he obstructed the police from carrying out their duties.

“The police were never obstructed. When they saw the slingshot they used a stun grenade, therefore it is the inverse. Police were using a sledgehammer to kill a rat by using a stun grenade in retaliation to stones,” Ngcukaitobi said. He then questioned the veracity of the charges Khanyile faces, poking holes into police statements and calling the charges “grossly exaggerated”.

Disputing Khanyile’s likeliness of intimidating witnesses and concealing evidence, Ngcukaitobi said it is “unbelievable” that the State says his client can intimidate witness in the case, because 14 of the 17 key witness are in fact police officers. “He [Khanyile] will not be a student in 2017 as he was in his last year. He wrote his exams from prison. He also has three minor children and there is no purpose for continued detention as he is not a flight risk and the investigations are complete.”

However, in response, senior state advocate Kelvin Singh said if Khanyile was not able to heed the court’s warning in February, he might not adhere to bail conditions if he were released.

Singh appealed for the video footage of Fees Must Fall strikes to be reviewed before a decision is taken, as they allegedly show the extent of Khanyile’s involvement in the violent attacks. “He [Khanyile] is studying public management, but has been charged for public violence. How ironic is that. There was no permission to gather or strike, therefore it was unlawful. He is in a leadership role on campus therefore he will have access to the witnesses [university staff],” Singh argued.

Judgment in Khanyile’s bail appeal will be handed down on Thursday.

Before proceedings could commence on Tuesday, the streets outside the Pietermaritzburg high court were filled with EFF members who came to support Durban University of Technology student and Fees Must Fall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile.

Groups of about 50 people, dressed in red T-shirts and berets, could be seen in the parking lot of the Freedom Square opposite the court.

They were carrying placards calling for Khanyile’s release and chanting struggle songs.

On the other side of the street, a long line of police vehicles were parked under the trees, with officers prepared for any violence that might arise if Khan­yile’s verdict was deemed unsatisfactory.

Speaking to The Witnessoutside the court before the proceedings started, EFF Students Command (EFFSC) secretary-general Phiwaba Madokwe said they had gathered in solidarity with Khanyile, who she described as the “last post-1994 political prisoner”.

“He fought for free education and the reasons for his bail being opposed is questionable. As activists in Fees Must Fall, we believe nobody must be left behind,” Madokwe said.

“There are no valid reasons as to why he is still in jail. They are keeping him inside to make a point. We are of the view that there are political influences behind his continued incarceration.”

Read more on:    dut  |  pietermaritzburg  |  fees must fall protests

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