Equal Education Says Release Students Now!
Equal Education notes with great concern reporting by The Daily Vox on 18 October that almost 600 people have been arrested this year in #FeesMustFall-related protests. We also note that some Magistrates across the country have denied student leaders bail.
At a time when South Africa is asking itself difficult questions on how to create an equal, just and decolonised society, student protesters are being treated as criminals for demanding what multiple generations of students before them have been repeatedly promised and repeatedly denied by multiple generations of dishonest officials and political elites.
Equal Education urges the National Prosecution Agency (NPA) to not criminalise protest by black people through indiscriminate prosecutions and the unnecessary opposing of bail. Equal Education urges magistrates and judges not to assist in criminalising protest by black people. We urge the courts to recognise that their role in a truly democratic state needs to be that of resolving conflict with a view to the creation of a just society, not of quashing radical protest and criminalising dissent.
We again urge students to exercise caution and restraint, and encourage them to remain disciplined and resolute in the face of police brutality. We urge students to protect university property, refrain from violence, and win support through persuasion and not coercion.
The State has been at the forefront of persecuting students – we condemn this and ask for President Jacob Zuma and Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande to show leadership and to intervene in the victimisation of students around the country.
We appeal to all magistrates who will be overseeing #FeesMustFall matters, to appropriately handle these cases. While we know not to expect anything from the NPA led by Shaun Abrahams, we urge people of conscience in the NPA to act with integrity when dealing with students who stand accused, and to not oppose bail applications.
We know too well that once protests become criminalised this is a pathway towards an authoritarian state quelling all manner of dissent. We once more reiterate that South Africa can deliver free quality education for the poor as a start, and convert the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) into a grant scheme.
For further comment:
Ntuthuzo Ndzomo (Equal Education Deputy General Secretary) 072 931 4343
Leanne Jansen-Thomas (Equal Education Head of Policy and Training) 079 494 9411
Amendments to this statement were made on 20 October 2016.