SA: Government to assist student activists

By – SAnews.gov.za

The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Advocate Michael Masutha, has undertaken to assist the Fees Must Fall campaign student activists to approach the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Addressing a media briefing in Tshwane on Monday, Masutha said his ministry will help the student activists to approach the NPA in order to consider evaluating each case regarding unrests, which happened during protests at institutions of higher education.

Masutha said the cases will be evaluated in order to determine the seriousness of the charges, the weight of the available evidence and where appropriate, the possibilities of the option for diversion, mediation or other forms of restorative justice in the case of those students who are yet to appear before the courts.

The Minister will, where appropriate, guide the students in making applications to the NPA for the review of prosecutorial decisions in cases of students who are already charged and whose matters are currently on trial.

“The Ministry of Justice will guide the students on the process of compiling applications for presidential pardon for those students seeking to make such applications. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development stands ready to begin with the process as soon as the students have submitted their applications with the relevant information,” he said.

The Minister said all recourse sought will be within the context of the criminal justice system.

“As the Minister of Justice, at no stage have I ever and at no stage will I ever instruct the NPA to proceed or not proceed with a prosecution. All that we will be doing is to provide guidance and assistance.

“The idea is to make sure that the students have full recourse of the law by assisting them in making sure that they are able to have full access to institutions of the law and that those institutions are able to deal with the matters as appropriately as is provided for in the law,” he said.

On Friday, the Minister met with activists, who were demanding a general amnesty for students who came into conflict with the law.

The Minister explained 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 a presidential pardon be pre-determined,” the Minister said.

Durban University of Technology graduate and student activist Bonginkosi Khanyile, who was this month convicted on charges of damage to property during the Fees Must Fall protests, has called on the State do deal with students with humility during protests.

“We want to commit to working with the Minister in ensuring all our issues are resolved as speedily as possible,” Khanyile said.