A group of high profile individuals, including Ebrahim Fakir, Thuli Madonsela, Firoz Cachalia and Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki, have joined former student leaders in raising awareness about embattled #FeesMustFall activist, Kanya Cekeshe who is languishing in prison.
Cekeshe was sentenced to five years in jail for public violence and malicious damage to property during the #FeesMustFall protests.
Calls for Cekeshe’s release have intensified following reports that he was hospitalised when his mental health took a turn for the worst.
On Friday more than 20 members of society and NGOs including Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Corruption Watch and Equal Education released a statement pledging their support for Cekeshe.
“We call for a deeper understanding of the context in which his actions occurred and the expedition of legal processes to be undertaken to secure his release so that he can continue with his studies, regain his mental health and may be allowed to take his place in making a positive contribution to the building of a better South Africa. We stand in solidarity with Kanya Cekeshe,” the statement read.
It also noted that although it is clear that many students today enjoy the benefits of free education, Cekeshe continues to rot in jail.
“While the gains of the #FeesMustFall movement are being felt by many at our universities, with the implementation of fee-free higher education for students from poor and working class families, there have been serious negative consequences for the lives of many #FeesMustFall activists.”
Cekeshe has been in Leeuwkop prison in Johannesburg since December 2017 after being sentenced to eight years, three of which were suspended, for public violence and malicious damage to property.
Last month, the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court dismissed Cekeshe’s application for leave to appeal his conviction. His lawyer indicated they would appeal that decision.
Cekeshe’s new legal team, led by Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi and attorney Wikus Steyl, applied for an urgent appeal at the Johannesburg High Court. This after Cekeshe’s previous legal team failed to appeal the eight-year sentence.
The group supporting Cekeshe also called for rehabilitation to be considered, to enable him the same opportunity that was given to many other student activists in the Western Cape.
“We further suggest that in appropriate circumstances our justice system takes into consideration the option of rehabilitation outside of the prison system, such as, community service, correctional supervision or suspended prison sentences.
“We believe that such an approach was adopted in many instances of student activism in the Western Cape, but was not considered in Kanya’s case,” the group said.
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