UCT student activist spends another night in jail

Masixole Mlandu (Netwerk24)
Masixole Mlandu (Netwerk24)

Cape Town - UCT student activist Masixole Mlandu will spend another night behind bars, as his bail application is set to enter a third day in the Wynberg Magistrate's Court on Friday.

The political science student faces a charge of malicious damage to property following stone throwing at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology's (CPUT) Cape Town campus, where a door was damaged during protests on October 24.

In previous brushes with the law relating to university matters, Mlandu was arrested in connection with violence at UCT.

He was expelled from UCT, but still remains involved with students there and is in negotiations with the university, which could see his expulsion reversed. 

On Thursday, the courtroom was packed with students and workers who came to support Mlandu when he appeared for the CPUT matter.

The State opposed his release on bail, arguing that while Mlandu had no prior convictions, he had three pending cases against him. These three cases relate to UCT.

Mlandu was previously arrested on October 12 after he allegedly led a group of students who broke into the campus protection services' office and intimidated the guards.

UCT lodged criminal complaints with police.

Mlandu's arrest came after he spent the previous week in Pollsmoor Prison awaiting a bail hearing on charges of malicious damage to property and assault. He was then released on R500 bail.

Before this, Mlandu was arrested on October 4 for contravening a court order. He allegedly tried to force students to take part in campus protests and was part of a group which barricaded the entrance to Upper Campus.

For this matter, UCT vice chancellor Max Price wrote a letter to be used in court stating he was not opposed to Mlandu being released from custody. He was granted bail.

Mlandu was also arrested on May 25 for trespassing on campus.

Expelled

He was expelled due to the role he played in the "Shackville" protest in February, where students erected a shack on Upper Campus as a symbol of the struggle for student housing and financial exclusions. Security guards demolished it.

Students began protesting again in September, calling for UCT to reinstate students who had been suspended, interdicted, or expelled following Fees Must Fall protests.

They called for the university to institute a Shackville Truth and Reconciliation Commission this year. Mlandu was among those taking part in negotiations about this with the university.

Mlandu's lawyer, Lufuno Musetsho, argued that students had been left leaderless and negotiations had suffered while his client was behind bars.

He said the case against Mlandu was not criminal, but political like the case against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Mlandu told the court on Wednesday that he wanted to write his final exams this month, and that his mother's health had taken strain following his arrest.

Musetsho told the court that among the conditions in negotiations with UCT was the dropping of all charges the university had lodged against Mlandu.

If this happened, Mlandu would have no pending cases.

‘Strong case’

Investigating officer, Sergeant Phelisile Ludada, told the court there was a strong prima facie case against Mlandu, including two eyewitnesses.

He alluded to possible video footage. However, there was a possibility that the cameras were not working.

"This video footage would have vindicated him," Musetsho insisted.

Ludada told the court it was likely that Mlandu would reoffend and commit another violent crime if released.

"He remains defiant," he testified.

Prosecutor Rahidine Callis would present closing arguments on Friday. 

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