Fees Must Fall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile sentenced to 3 years house arrest

Bonginkosi Khanyile. (Photo by Gallo Images)
Bonginkosi Khanyile. (Photo by Gallo Images)

Fees Must Fall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile has been sentenced to three years house arrest and must undergo life skills courses.

Khanyile appeared in the Durban Regional Court on Monday to hear his sentencing, having been convicted on public violence charges in August.

He was also ordered to pay a R5 000 fine or serve a three-year prison sentence, suspended for five years.

Khanyile on Monday was adamant that the fight for free education would continue.

He said, while he accepted the sentence of three years house arrest given to him for committing acts of public violence in 2016, his "mind and soul" were free, and in that sense he remained "an innocent man".

"I have no specific feelings about the case… It’s done and finished. But the struggle will continue. We are not shaken by this."

His supporters, many wearing EFF regalia, crammed into the courtroom to hear Magistrate Siphiwe Hlophe handing down the sentence on their 29-year-old leader.

After finding that Khanyile was a suitable candidate for correctional supervision, Hlophe fined him R5 000 (or three years in prison), suspended for five years and sentenced him to house arrest.

He will only be allowed to leave his home to attend life skills courses, do eight hours community service every month, and to attend the University of KwaZulu-Natal where he has registered to do a Masters Degree in Public Administration this year.

'He has no respect for authority'

Early last year, Khanyile pleaded guilty to twice disobeying police orders to disperse, public violence and possession of a dangerous weapon - a slingshot which he used to pelt police with stones.

SAPS Durban cluster commander head Colonel Langa Mhlongo, giving evidence in aggravation of sentence, said the police were caught by surprise by the violence associated with the Fees Must Fall protests.

He said extra resources had to be brought into the city from other areas and a special task team of 18 detectives had been established - at great cost and creating service delivery problems at a time, when the service was "barely coping".

Mhlongo described Khanyile as "very arrogant" and said he had made threats to the investigating officer.

"He has no respect for authority and he is not remorseful.

"As a leader he has great influence, but he led people astray. And a catastrophe was only avoided because of police restraint in the face of extreme provocation."

'He can make a contribution in the future'

Khanyile's advocate Danie Combrink said his client just needed to be "channeled in the right direction".

"He stands out as a leader… He can make a contribution to the community in future," he argued.

Prosecution team Nkululeko Msiya and Roshiela Benimadho said the case was not about the fees, but about punishing those who abused the rule of law.

"This was violent disobedience in the extreme. The slingshot is not a toy. It is a simple, but highly effective, weapon. And yet he and his supporters wear them around their necks in mockery of the charge.

"No matter how noble your cause, the ends do not justify the means," they said.

Hlophe said he would give Khanyile the benefit of the doubt on the issue of remorse.

"Free education is a good cause. And this campaign managed to raise awareness and the government was put under pressure to provide additional funding.

"But when you shut down teaching and learning, students become the biggest losers.

"But I believe you (Khanyile) should be given an opportunity to accept responsibility for what happened and to develop yourself to prevent unacceptable behaviour in future."

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