Kanya Cekeshe back in prison after admission to hospital, suffering mentally- lawyer

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Fees Must Fall activist Kanya Cekeshe. (Photo by Gallo Images/Papi Morake)
Fees Must Fall activist Kanya Cekeshe. (Photo by Gallo Images/Papi Morake)

Fees Must Fall student activist Kanya Cekeshe was hospitalised, allegedly after he did not receive the medical treatment he needs in prison, his legal team told News24 on Sunday.

Wikus Steyl, of Ian Levitt Attorneys, said Cekeshe was "tremendously suffering" mentally. 

On Monday, Steyl said Cekeshe, believed to be one of the last Fees Must Fall activists still in prison, was back in his cell after he was discharged from hospital.    

"He's not getting the necessary medical treatment in prison. We are in the process of arranging a private psychiatrist and psychologist to urgently consult with him," Steyl said. 

Cekeshe was convicted of public violence and malicious damage to property when he tried to set a police van alight during protests in 2016. 

He was sentenced to eight years in prison and has been in the Leeuwkop Correctional Centre in Johannesburg since 2017.

Cekeshe's bid to appeal his conviction and be released on bail pending the appeal was dismissed in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court in October. His legal team is now looking at parole options. 

His defence team, led by advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi and Steyl, argued in court that the lawyer who represented him in the trial was incompetent, and that there were discrepancies between the charges against Cekeshe and what was in his statement.

Cekeshe's legal team has since turned to the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to challenge his conviction.

Consulting mental health experts

Meanwhile, the activist's mental health continues to deteriorate while he fights for his release. 

"We're consulting with mental health experts and civil society organisations," Steyl said. 

Department of Correctional Services (DCS) spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said Cekeshe was receiving medical attention.

He said in cases where conditions of inmates are severe, the department uses external specialists or outside hospitals.

"I cannot disclose the nature of the medical condition, but the inmate must be given the best possible treatment. It cannot be true that he is not receiving attention from DCS. We are legally obliged to look after inmates in a safe and humane environment, and respond to their special needs," said Nxumalo. 

EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said it was tragic that a young man’s life was "being distorted by a democratic government that prides itself of being liberated by protestors".

He said Cekeshe was fighting for free education, asking to be in a classroom - not prison.

"We wish him a speedy recovery and will continue to give him all the support he needs," he said.

Not in a good state of mind

The party's students command president, Mandla Shikwambana, said Cekeshe's situation was worrisome and the reason behind his condition stemmed from his disappointment after his appeal was dismissed. 

Shikwambana has been attending court appearances.

He said the student activist has not been in good health since the day his appeal was dismissed.

"He is not feeling well. He is not in a good state of mind, simply because he has been thinking too much. He had hopes that he would at least get bail or the State would be lenient towards him, but it continued to be brutal and show arrogance and that affected him mentally," Shikwambana said. 

Shikwambana added that the students command was clear on its mandate to continue fighting for Cekeshe's release. He said while he could not confirm the finer details, there were plans for a national march to demand that the activist be freed. 

He added it was unfair that Cekeshe was the only student activist in prison while others had been released. 

"We understand that this thing is now taking a political route and it's not that they (the State) don't have the capacity to assist. There are people controlling politically to make sure that they continue to suppress Kanya and his family," he added.

Shikwambana said they would be visiting Cekeshe to offer him further support and encouragement.

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