Fees Must Fall will rise again: convicted student
Activist who was sentenced to three years’ house arrest on Monday says the struggle continues
Fees Must Fall student activist Bonginkosi Khanyile is sticking to his guns when it comes to the struggle for free education.
After he was sentenced to house arrest on Monday, he said the movement was alive and thriving and the struggle far from over.
“There must be free education, everyone must go to school without paying.
“But in some cases, this is not as it should be. On the ground we must mobilise, we must organise the people and ensure that the cause continues.
“These kids who look up to us ... must not see us as being scared of the consequences that come with fighting for our rights,” Khanyile said.
Last week, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) announced they were considering an appeal from student applications after tens of thousands didn’t receive funding.
“There are, unfortunately, some students who have been unsuccessful, based on information that we received from credit bureaus regarding their household income. Should a student want to dispute this outcome because of changes to the household income or Sassa status, they may lodge an appeal by providing the necessary documentation to NSFAS,” said spokesperson for the scheme Kagisho Mamabolo.
According to Mamabolo, NSFAS has assessed all 2019 applications of first-year students.
“Of the 417,000 applications received, more than 300,000 students have been declared approved pending registration at public institutions for NSFAS-funded qualifications.
“In December 2018, the NSFAS administrator, Dr Randall Carolissen, called for a review of the 109,000 applications that were initially unsuccessful for the 2019 academic year. Following this process, more than 60,000 of these applicants have subsequently been declared financially eligible. As NSFAS processed applications in the pipeline, the number of unsuccessful applicants escalated to 65,000.”
In August last year Khanyile‚ through his advocate Danie Combrink‚ admitted that during the violent protest action he had disturbed the public peace‚ used a slingshot to stone police and ignored their pleas to disperse.
He was convicted on charges of public violence‚ failing to comply with a police instruction and possession of a dangerous weapon.
On Monday, the public gallery of Court X, at the Durban Regional Court, was brimming with Khanyile supporters, all eager to learn if their leader was going to spend time in jail.
The defence made a strong case for correctional supervision for the honours graduate, who has been accepted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal to complete his master’s degree in public management this year.
The state told the court the charges reflected a person who had a “flagrant disregard for law and order”.
“The courts are seeing an increasing number of public violence cases where businesses and schools are being blackmailed into giving into demands,” senior public prosecutor Roshiela Benimadho told the court.
She called for an end to “this kind of domestic terrorism”.
Before handing down the sentence, magistrate Siphiwe Hlope said “free education is a good cause, I agree, but not vandalism”.
Dressed in a Steve Biko T-shirt and a camouflage jacket, Khanyile faced Hlope as he heard his fate.
Apart from the house arrest, he was also ordered to pay a R5,000 fine or serve a three-year prison sentence, suspended for five years.
He was also instructed by the court to do community service every month and refrain from taking intoxicating substances.
Khanyile afterwards said he was emotionless.
“I am a free man, my mind is free, my body and my soul is free. I’m not a prisoner, I’m just a free man, despite the house arrest.
“They can only arrest your body, but not your mind. If you believe in a cause you are fighting for, even if you are subjected to the highest penalty, you do so with pride, honour and dignity.
“I don’t have feelings about what has happened here. I take it as, let’s continue the struggle.
“What matters the most is for us to organise ourselves and continue to push for policies that we believe will better the lives of our people. I will continue to be active, despite being under house arrest.
“As to how, I will see what they impose. Nothing is going to stop me from being an activist.”
Khanyile said he drew inspiration from struggle icons such as Steve Biko and Solomon Mahlangu.
“However, the manner in which we struggle depends on the conditions imposed on us.
“You don’t wake up and say, I’m going to protest and assault the police.
“You don’t wake up and say, I’m going to use a slingshot. You do that depending on the pressure on the ground.
“It’s the conditions that drive people to react in a particular manner. If the fees were not expensive in institutions of higher learning, if there was full employment and an economy that was working for everyone, no one will go outside and protest and cause chaos.
“The conditions will dictate. We are not in ancient times. You can’t expect us to walk like Solomon and speak like Solomon,” he said.