Amnesty for “Fees Must Fall” student activists is set to top the agenda of the Universities South Africa board meeting this week.
The Fees Must Fall protests in both 2015 and 2016 saw a number of students expelled from universities and some arrested.
For some of the student activists, Free Education came at a heavy price. One student is serving a five year prison sentence for burning a police vehicle in 2016.
While other students are still making court appearances. University of Pretoria Psychology graduate Rassie Rasithaba faces four charges including incitement for illegal activities and public violence.
“It’s constantly at the back of my mind when I think of applying for a particular scholarship to continue my study, when I think of applying at a certain university, this thing is hanging because I always have to disclose that and you almost feel that both corporate and academia have this keep far away from these ones,” said Rasithaba.
Following on Youth Day calls by the EFF, Rasethaba says President Ramaphosa should pardon Fees Must Fall student activists.
“We believe that it would only be fair, correct and just for the president, the NPA, justice ministry and the universities to come together and drop cases and for those students that have already been convicted to be given presidential pardons,” said Rasethaba.
Former President Jacob Zuma eventually announced free higher education for the poor in December last year.
Students say it’s a serious contradiction that the government has granted free tertiary education as a result of Fees must Fall protests – recognizing it as a legitimate movement. Yet some of the student activists continue to be prosecuted by the very same state.
“When the president pronounced on free education that was a clear vindication of those students, that generation was vindicated, we achieved free education. So now we must still attend court after our grievances have been responded to by the first citizen of the country which is former president Jacob Zuma,” said Sthembiso Ndlovu, SA Union of Students.
Two years after the protests, Universities South Africa will now consider amnesty for students from the universities side.
“On the one hand there is an issue that are within the powers of the universities to deal with, on the other side there will have to be discussions with government, police and the justice system if you like, in cases where students have been found guilty by a court of law that’s outside the hands of universities,” said Professor Ahmed Bawa, CEO of Universities SA.
As a result of Fees Must Fall protests, Higher Education institutions were reported to have suffered major property damage estimated to run into billions of rands.