Eight Wits students arrested during protest released on warning

The eight students that were arrested during protests on Monday  at Wits University were released today on warnings at Hillbrow Magistrates Court and will be required to reappear in court next month.

The charges brought against them include public violence, contravention of a court order, malicious damage to property, assault and possession of a dangerous weapon.

Fellow students and families sat behind the dock awaiting for student protesters Zimbali Ncube, Marola Mathabatha, Siyabonga Bongani Mathebula, Edwin Mokhali, Jonathan Paoli, Sabelo Melane and Thabiso Nhlapo to be called upon.

The courtroom responded in shock and tears were shed by loved ones as the  young men were handcuffed on entrance.

Court proceedings started out with the state opposing bail for the eight young men as some of their residential addresses were not verified.

But the students’ lawyers, Advocates Sizo Dlali and Andries Nkome argued successfully that since some addresses could not be immediately verified then their proof of registration would suffice as evidence that they were not flight risks.

Accused number two, Zimbali Ncube, would have spent another night in custody as the verification of his address was not as successful as the others. Magistrate Herman Visser was adamant that he did not want any student to stay in custody unnecessarily.

The state then proposed that each student be released on R1000 bail but this was argued against by Nkome.

“I don’t want to start sounding like a broken record your Honour but these students cannot afford bail,” argued Nkome. The students are still dependant on guardians and parents he said.

The magistrate then released them on a warning. As the eight walked out cheers could be heard outside and fellow students welcomed them in song.

However, The Wits 8 are to return to court on November 2 as the police are said to still be investigating their cases.


Student Union wants direct link to the president

The South African Union of Students (SAUS) has said they will be looking to discuss issues of free education directly with the Presidency than through the Commission of Inquiry into Free Higher Education.

This comes after the first day of the Commission’s public hearings in Pretoria.

SAUS deputy secretary general Fasiha Hassan said they wanted the direct line because they were disappointed with the commission’s lack of political power to discuss issues of free higher education.

“SAUS is now looking towards creating a direct line with the president of the republic,  particularly because this is a presidential commission and when we raise issues, stuff around decomodification, stuff around how to realise free education, we are often told that we now have to take it back to the president,” said Hassan.

She added that “If we are not going to be talking to a commission without political will then we have to take it straight to the top.”

Student activist Tasneem Essop also questioned the Commission’s purpose on Twitter.

“I don’t understand, surely #FeesCommission should be finding a feasible model for free education & not checking if free education is feasible,” she said.

The commission of inquiry was established in January by President Jacob Zuma following #FeesMustFall protests where students demanded free higher education and training. The commission was expected to submit their findings in eight months, however two weeks ago the Presidency said they would extend the due date to next year June 30.

The commission is expected to submit a preliminary report on or before November 15. The public hearings are set to continue today in Pretoria and will end in September in Kimberly.

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