Justice minister aims to get presidential pardon for #FeesMustFall activist Kanya Cekeshe

Kanya Cekeshe filed for leave to appeal his conviction in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court.
Kanya Cekeshe filed for leave to appeal his conviction in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court.
Azarrah Karrim, News24

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola says his department is in the process of assisting #FeesMustFall activist Kanya Cekeshe with an application to get a presidential pardon from Cyril Ramaphosa, following the dismissal of his bid to appeal his conviction and eight-year sentence.

In a tweet published on Monday afternoon, shortly after the court made its ruling, Lamola took to Twitter to share the news.

"We note the dismissal of both the leave to appeal and bail for #FeesMustFall activists Khaya Cekeshe by the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court.

"We're in the process of urgently assisting him with an application for a presidential pardon or other legally available avenues," Lamola tweeted.

Lamola's spokesperson, Chrispin Phiri, told News24 the process of assisting Cekeshe had been offered to convicted #FeesMustFall activists for crimes related to the movement. "It is an avenue that is available in our laws where the president is able to grant someone a pardon," he said.Lamola said it was in the interest of justice for the department to assist Cekeshe to apply for a pardon, adding it would then be in Ramaphosa's hands to determine whether the offence should be pardoned.

Phiri said the ministry has been in contact with Cekeshe's lawyers. 

Magistrate Theunis Carstens said there was no merit to the argument put forward by Cekeshe and his defence. 

"As far as the court is concerned, it is crystal clear that the applicant admitted to all the relevant allegations in the charge sheet. There are no discrepancies between the allegations in the charge sheet and admissions he made.

"It is not in the interest of justice to grant him bail."

Carstens said during the course of trial, Cekeshe, in a plea, had admitted that he and others [activists] assembled with a common intent to disturb public peace or security by blocking roads. He added arguments by Cekeshe's defence that there were discrepancies in the allegations in the charge sheet and admissions made by him were ambiguous and "opportunistic". The magistrate said the law was clear that once it is established that a person knowingly took part in a disturbance, which endangered public peace, it was unnecessary to prove a particular act of violence was committed. He said Cekeshe admitted that he had damaged and set fire to a police vehicle, that he went to fetch paraffin and matches, and then set the vehicle alight.

"It is crystal clear that the applicant admitted all the relevant allegations in the charge sheet. There are no discrepancies between the allegation in the charge sheet and admissions made by the applicant. None of the admissions were ambiguous. "The submission of the defence counsel is unconvincing and does not hold water". Touching on the incompetence of Cekeshe's previous legal representative, which was raised by Ngcukaitobi, Carstens said Cekeshe at no stage hinted at the competence of his legal representative at the time. "He had more than enough time during the trial and application for leave to appeal against the sentence to raise any objection to the manner in which his trial was handled" Carstens sad the fact that he had briefed the same legal representative that he had intentions to apply for leave to appeal the sentence showed that he had trust.

"The contention that the applicant did not have a fair trial because of the incompetence of his legal representative is unfounded".

Cekeshe is believed to be the last #FeesMustFall activist to still be in prison.

He applied for leave to appeal his conviction and was granted bail after his conviction in 2017.

Cekeshe was convicted of public violence and malicious damage to property after he tried to set a police van alight during the protests.

He received an eight-year sentence, which he is serving in Leeuwkop Correctional Services in Bryanston.

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