Minister: No blanket presidential pardon for Fees Must Fall students

27 August 2018 - 12:51 By Naledi Shange
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha. File photo
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Michael Masutha. File photo
Image: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Lisa Hnatowicz

No blanket exemption from prosecution nor presidential pardons for students linked to violent #FeesMustFall protests will be granted‚ justice minister Michael Masutha said on Monday.

He offered‚ however‚ to guide the students in making applications to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for a review of prosecutorial decisions in cases of students who are already charged and whose matters are currently on trial.

The activists declined to join what was billed as a joint media briefing with the minister in Pretoria on Monday when they heard that their call for presidential pardons and amnesty for their participation and acts in the fee-hike revolt had not been granted.

“There are no agreements. That is why we refused to sit with the minister at the same table and we have agreed that there is no coalition‚ no marriage‚ no unit‚” said convicted #FeesMustFall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile.

He was speaking shortly after Masutha had taken to the podium to announce that following the student’s demonstrations at the Union Buildings and Parliament last week‚ he had met with them and informed them that he was willing to assist them.

Masutha said‚ however‚ that their demands that all charges against them would be dissolved immediately could not be met. He clarified that President Cyril Ramaphosa could not interfere with the processes of the judiciary.

“It is worth noting that presidential pardons are granted in respect of convicted and sentenced persons only on the basis of the information they provide and in circumstances where the applicant has shown good cause. Under no circumstances can presidential pardons be predetermined‚” the minister said‚ reading from a prepared statement.

Masutha said he had given a few propositions to the students.

He tasked them to form a delegation to provide a list of all the students who were arrested‚ charged‚ convicted or still undergoing trial. He said where appropriate‚ he would guide the students on the process of making the applications for a presidential pardon.

Masutha highlighted that there were several aspects that the president would need to take into account before deciding whether to grant amnesty.

Some of those factors included the severity of the charge and public interest in the matter.

The students were calling for a blanket approach which would result in a reprieve for all.

Khanyile‚ a Durban University of Technology student who was recently convicted of a string of crimes relating to the fee-hike protests‚ has spent the last six days sleeping outside the Union Building premises alongside his mother and other #FeesMustFall activists.

He said they were not happy with the minister's processes and propositions.

He said that on their fourth day at the Union Buildings‚ Masutha had arrived with bodyguards‚ police and an umbrella to “lecture them on the Constitution and laws”. He said that the minister did not give them direct answers.

“He spoke at length but the specifics were missing‚” Khanyile said. “What the minister has said‚ it was a lecture on law and more rhetorical… He gave us a lecture on the Constitution and he spoke like a politician‚” he said‚ adding that it was all just “wishy-washy”.

Khanyile called on government to accept responsibility for what led the students to revolt and embark on the fee hike protests across the country. He asserted they had been “neglected by the government”.

“Fees Must Fall activists are not criminals. All of them are not criminals‚” he said.

Asked if the country’s laws and Constitution should be bent to accommodate the activists‚ Khanyile said all the arms of the state could meet and come up with a solution to solve the situation.

“No student woke up and decided to go and burn buildings so it must be something that [is a problem with the system]‚” he said.