30 March 2016

South Africa: #FeesMustFall Students Cheer As Charges Withdrawn in 'Public Interest'

Twenty-nine university students burst into applause and grinned from ear to ear on Wednesday morning after charges relating to the #FeesMustFall protests were withdrawn against them in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court.

Magistrate Joe Magele heard from the State that provincial director of public prosecutions, Rodney de Kock, had decided to withdraw the charges after representations were made.

Magele asked the three rows of students, packed tightly together, whether they had any objections to that decision.

The group laughed and shook their heads.

Among them were University of Cape Town (UCT) Vice Chancellor Max Price's son Ilan, ANC stalwart Frank Chikane's son Kgotsi, and UCT student activist Chumani Maxwele.

The students had faced various charges of contravening the Public Gatherings Act, public violence and trespassing.

Price and 22 others were arrested on the UCT campus during protests towards the end of last year, while six others were arrested outside Parliament after students forced their way onto the parliamentary precinct during a sitting for Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene's mid-term budget speech.

Police, dressed in riot gear, used stun grenades to force the students back through the two gates, in scenes broadcast live on South African television.

While the Hawks had strongly denied last year that six of the students were to be charged with treason, journalists were shown the initial charge sheet with treason on it. This charge never made it to court.

Shortly after the end of the court case on Wednesday, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said De Kock had decided it was not in the public interest to prosecute the students.

"This protest outside national Parliament was peaceful and there was no damage caused to property by the protesters. The protest was against the high cost of higher education in this country and enjoyed wide public support," explained NPA regional spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila.

He said UCT supported the demonstration and formally requested De Kock to withdraw the charges on October 25.

"At the time, we refused to do so in this case until the investigation of the matter was finalised."

The NPA strongly condemned illegal and violent protests that lead to injury and damage to property.

Source: News24

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