NUMSA demands the scrapping of charges and the unconditional release of all #FeesMustFall activist
21 August 2018
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) demands the unconditional release and scrapping of charges of all #FeesMustFall activists. Students were forced to embark on protest action because the ANC-led government has consistently ignored them on the just demand for free, quality, decolonized higher education. Several students have been charged and convicted for participating in those protests.
21-year old Khanya Thandile Cekeshe is serving a sentence of eight years, (three years suspended) for allegedly setting a police van alight during the #FeesMustFall protests in 2016. Bonginkosi Khanyile was found guilty of alleged public violence, apparently failing to comply with a police instruction and the alleged possession of a dangerous weapon. In this case the ‘dangerous weapon’ was a slingshot! Mcebo Dlamini is expected to go on trial in September on charges of public violence and damage to property. These are just some of the students who are being persecuted by the ANC-led government for fighting for free education.
The ANC government has used the police and judiciary to persecute, prosecute and jail students for fighting for free education, a perfectly legitimate demand found in the Freedom Charter. Thousands of working class students participated in the public protests because they were being excluded from accessing education because it is so costly. They were violently assaulted and harassed by the police during the protests, and yet, not one officer has been arrested.
Bonginkosi’s conviction is unjustifiable. It is ridiculous in the extreme that a slingshot can be considered a dangerous weapon, when police officers are armed to the teeth, with R5 rifles, tear gas and all manner of weapons designed to kill. This was the same excuse used by the Apartheid government to justify the brutality and mass murder of peaceful protesters in Sharpeville in 1960. Now it’s the ANC’s turn to oppress the African working class majority!
THE ANC GOVERNEMNT PROTECTS BUILDINGS WHILST STUDENTS GO HUNGRY!
The ANC, by persecuting, prosecuting and jailing students has shown that it does not care that children of the working class starve at university, and that hunger is a very real problem amongst working class students. Hundreds of student’s squat with other students in their rooms, or sleep in libraries on campuses across the country, because they cannot afford accommodation. This unrelenting attack on the working class is made worse by the fact that thousands are ejected out of the system through academic and financial exclusions.
The state is brutal against the working class, and in particular, against its children. The #FeesMustFall protests erupted because students realized that the African working class majority will never escape poverty, and inequality, unless they can access free, quality, decolonized education. The ANC wants credit for liberating the masses, but they are behaving like the leaders of the Apartheid government.
Last year government announced the roll out of supposedly free education, but in reality, thousands of students remain excluded from accessing education. The NFSAS system which is used to manage the payment of grants for students is in shambles. Thousands of students continue to be denied education, food and accommodation money because NFSAS administration is chaotic!
Furthermore, the working class is suffering under the burden of the VAT and fuel levy price increase, which government implemented to punish the working class for demanding free education. So, in reality this is not ‘free education’ because the working class is paying for it. The state refuses to nationalize the land and the minerals in order to fund the program.
We call on all our members, and all our comrades locally and across the globe to stand with us in solidarity with #FeesMustFall activists who are being victimized by the state. We call on them to join us as we denounce the ANC led government for this vicious attack on working class students!
From the ANC government, we demand the unconditional release from prison of all jailed students and the scrapping of charges against all students awaiting and undergoing trial. In pursuit of these goals, we shall mobilize solidarity, nationally and internationally.
The struggle continues!
Issued by Irvin Jim, NUMSA General Secretary, 21 August 2018