‘The UKZN 11 became thugs’

2016-10-11 11:28
The UKZN 11 let out a collective sigh of despair as they heard their stay in the “disgusting” jail will continue for another three days as the court considers their bail application.

The UKZN 11 let out a collective sigh of despair as they heard their stay in the “disgusting” jail will continue for another three days as the court considers their bail application. (Ian Carbutt)

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The “UKZN 11” students from the Pietermaritzburg who face charges including public violence, assault and malicious injury to property — had become thugs, a magistrate was told on Monday.

The 11 have already been in jail for 19 days and will have to wait longer to hear if they will get bail.

While the defence argued on Monday that it is in the interests of justice to release the UKZN11 on bail, so they can write their exams, the prosecution said their release would not be in the interests of justice.

Prosecutor Patti David said the 11 had through their alleged violent actions “crossed the line from being students to becoming thugs”.

A sigh went up when students who packed the gallery heard Pietermaritzburg magistrate M. Boikhutso say she will give judgment in the bail application on Thursday.

The 11 students (six men and five women) also appeared downcast at the prospect of another three days in custody before learning their fate.

One, Chuma Wakeni, was heard earlier complaining about the food in prison. “It is disgusting. We get this steamed food. I have developed a rash all over my body,” he said.

The student suggested that human rights organisations should check on conditions in prison and that the magistrate and prosecutor should “spend one night in prison” so that they would know what it is like.

Their disappointed supporters left the court building sombrely after the case was postponed.

The magistrate’s court and its surrounds were manned by heavily armed police who allowed only a certain number of students into the building, keeping a large crowd at bay outside closed gates.

The UKZN11 face charges of public violence, failing to obey police orders, interfering with police in the course of their duties, assault and malicious injury to property.

The allegations are that they burned goods including fridges inside and outside the Malherbe residence, threw stones and bottles at firefighters and police, and stoned vehicles belonging to members of the public. They allegedly refused to disperse when instructed to by police, assaulted officers by throwing bottles and stones at them, and damaged university property including fences and vehicles.

The bail application — which had been due for judgment yesterday — got under way with advocate Mazwanzulu Dlamini applying to withdraw as legal representative of the students. He was replaced by five lawyers representing different individuals among the 11.

Each of the new lawyers applied, and was given permission by the magistrate, to reopen the case for the students to put facts on record that had been omitted at their previous bail application.

Attorney Andre Chetty, advocate Thembinkosi Nene, and attorneys Simphiwe Ngwenya, and two attorneys named S. Nzimande all objected to video footage of the violence at the university being considered by the magistrate during the bail proceedings.

Chetty said the video footage should only form part of the trial, where its admissibility might be challenged.

He stressed that the UKZN11 “are innocent until proven guilty”.

It emerged during the hearing that all 11 students charged in the case are not paying their own university fees — the majority are funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, one masters student receives a scholarship from the National Research Foundation, and the fees of another student are funded by a private non-profit organisation.

Their lawyers said they would miss out on exams if kept in custody and would sacrifice their funding, which is conditional on them passing.

The court was told that UKZN’s exam schedule is due to start on December 1.

The defence said none of the 11 had previous convictions or pending cases, and had been swept up “by a cause” — the national “FeesMustFall” movement.

All 11 claimed they were unaware of a high court interdict granted on September 14, restraining them from committing acts of violence and participating in illegal gatherings on UKZN campuses.

Prosecutor David replied that it was significant that none of the 11 was funding their own education.

“What about the thousands of students who want to attend campus and write their exams and are being stopped? What about parents who have had to pay for fees?” she asked.

David said this may be a national crisis, but violence could not be tolerated.

She said she stood by her arguments that universities were facing closure because of the actions of students like the UKZN11, and that they pose a threat to public order.

She added that the state would rely on the video evidence at the trial of the UKZN11, on which they can allegedly be seen carrying out acts of violence.

David said the video footage was captured by police who have a special unit tasked with videoing violence all over the country, adding that the court interdict had been served on all SRCs at UKZN.

The UKZN11 are: Chuma Wakeni, Siyathemba Magwaza, Minenhle Sibisi, Ntabankeka Kopedi, Mayibongwe Ngcobo, Mbali Langa, Lindokuhle Hlongwa, Thembeka Mpanza, Nobuhle Shabalala, Siyabonga Mbambo and Samukelisiwe Lubanyana.

Read more on:    #feesmustfall

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