#FeesMustFall protesters facing charges to be diverted to community service in schools

2018-07-06 14:36
Lerato Sereake, Qondiswa James, Nsovo Shandlale and Khayalethu Maneli outside Wynberg Magistrate's Court (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Lerato Sereake, Qondiswa James, Nsovo Shandlale and Khayalethu Maneli outside Wynberg Magistrate's Court (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Seven students who were charged over the #FeesMustFall protests in Cape Town will be diverted from the court system to complete community service at schools, a move they have welcomed as an opportunity to "conscientise young minds".

The Wynberg Magistrate's Court heard on Friday that diversion had been decided on after their lawyer made representations to the director of public prosecutions to motivate why the cases should not go ahead.

It is expected that charges will be dropped once they return to court and show proof that they have completed their community service.

The group includes Sihle Lonzi, Khayalethu Maneli, Ndumiso Gina, Nsovo Shandlale, Lerato Sereake, Qondiswa James and Manna Storm.

The charges relate to the alleged violation of a university court interdict during the protests in 2017.

James faces charges of public indecency relating to an alleged naked protest.

A new resistance

Warrants of arrest were held over for Storm, who was in Johannesburg, and Gina, who was ill, until their next appearances.

Lonzi was absent and the court directed that bail be forfeited and a warrant of arrest authorised ahead of his next appearance on July 20.

Standing outside court with wide grins, the remaining students expressed their excitement at the outcome.

Read: Charges have not fallen for 7 Cape Town #FeesMustFall protesters

"It (the diversion) is allowing us to reimagine how we resist," Shandlale said.

He looked forward to being able to express what it meant to be black in white institutions and to give insight into how society functioned.

It was also a chance for him to make sense of his own journey.

The law 'is not for us'

Maneli and Sereake hoped schoolchildren could learn a lot from them about the university environment.

"When you're in high school, you have a misconception that it's going to be a rosy place and [that] this is going to be a little piece of heaven," said Sereake.

Instead, young people needed to know what it meant to be a black person and pupil in a time of economic apartheid, he said.

James said she had learnt a lot from experiencing the justice system first-hand and seeing how people are treated.

Read more: #FeesMustFall activists still on trial

"I have really appreciated understanding that the law does not work, it is not for us, and that justice is not something that is happening in South Africa at all."

Already working with schoolchildren, she said she was very excited to use her community service as a time to mobilise and politicise.

Call for student protester's release from jail

"If we can catch them when they are younger and say: 'Do something about it while you are energetic', by the time you get into first or second year, if student protests continue, you are prepared. You understand.

"That is the opportunity they have given us without even thinking about it."

Speaking on behalf of the group, she said they were not finished fighting the system.

They also called for Khanya Cekeshe to be freed or pardoned.

Cekeshe, a FootPrint Media Academy student, is serving a five-year jail term in Leeuwkop prison for burning a police van in Braamfontein at the height of the #FeesMustFall protests in 2016.

Storm will return to court on July 19, Lonzi on July 20 and the remainder on August 8.

Read more on:    fees must fall  |  cape town  |  courts  |  university fees  |  university protests  |  education

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