24 Tuks students arrested for public violence during Afrikaans Must Fall protests in February are still waiting for a court decision.
The 24 Tuks students arrested on charges of public violence during Afrikaans Must Fall protests in February were told at pre-trial proceedings in the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday that their case would be postponed for the fifth time, until Friday, August 19.
The decision came despite the Tuks 24’s legal team, made up of Tuks Alumni lawyers working pro bono, appealing to the court that the prosecutor had had more than enough time to make a decision.
“It’s dragging my life out. I’m just hoping for the best,” said one of the accused, Zsazsa Shezi.
At the previous court appearance on July 19, the State said that it would review all the information provided by the Tuks 24’s legal team by August 2 to decide whether they would press ahead with a trial or drop the charges due to lack of sufficient evidence. At this week’s appearance, however, the state asked for more time.
“The State should have come to a conclusion within this timeframe,” said Timothy Ramabulana, a lawyer from the Tuks 24 legal team who explained that all the necessary documents had been handed over weeks ago.
The Court urged the State to “get its house in order”, but maintained that it was in the best interests to give the chief prosecutor the time that he needed to properly review the statements because it might still result in the case being dropped.
“I haven’t even told my parents about all of this,” said one of the Tuks 24 who asked to remain anonymous.
The courtroom lobby was filled with supporters, most of whom were clad in red Economic Freedom Fighters regalia, after the Tuks SRC had organised a bus to the court for students to support the 24. There is also a petition currently running titled #FreeTuks24 which is appealing to Tuks Vice Chancellor, Prof. Cheryl de la Rey to come out in support of the students who are on on trial, although it is unlikely this would have any effect as the case is now in the hands of the law.
The Afrikaans Must Fall Protests spanned multiple days at the University of Pretoria in February, and resulted in classes being cancelled after violence broke out between pro-Afrikaans students, and those who wanted it removed as a language of instruction. Tuks has since approved a new language policy which will see Afrikaans phased out as a medium of instruction from 2017.
The students are currently out on R500 bail each, with bail conditions that stipulate that they may only take part in protected strikes.