Charges laid against the students from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), University of Cape Town (UCT) and University of South Africa (Unisa) have been withdrawn after presentations were made to the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Western Cape. The 29 students were arrested for trespassing and public violence outside the national parliament in October last year.
The students were demanding no fee increases for 2016. They marched to parliament while Minister of Finance Nhlahla Nene was delivering a medium-term budget policy statement.
Rev Frank Chikane’s son, Kgotsi Chikane, and the UCT’s Vice Chancellor’s son, Ilan Price, were among those who appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday. They said they were excited and relieved that the charges against them had been dropped. “I am relieved and I feel good about the future.” said Kgotsi
Price said: “What happened outside parliament is something that had to be done in order for the government to do something. I don’t think it will end anytime soon because the fees still have not fallen, but I am happy that the charges were dropped.”
Activist and Rhodes Must Fall campaign leader, Chumani Maxhwele said they expected the charges against them to be dropped. “The state had no case against us so they did what they had to do.”
Frank Chikane said he was pleased that the case was over. “I respect what these young people did. I saw a unity that was never seen before. I wish the students would keep the unity of the purpose. I am pleased that the government listened to their message and did something about it.
If these young people didn’t take the struggle, the government wouldn’t have listened. I actually expected the case to be withdrawn from the very first day; I was surprised that it was taken further.”
Western Cape National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Eric Ntabazalila said: “After considering representations from the accused that were made to his office, Advocate De Kock decided that it was not in the public interest to prosecute the accused. The NPA strongly condemns illegal and violent protests that lead to injury and damage to property.
“This protest outside national parliament was peaceful and there was no damage caused to property by the protesters. The protest was against the high cost of higher education in this country and enjoyed wide public support.
“After careful consideration of the particular facts of this matter and the representations received from the accused, the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided to withdraw all the charges against all the accused.” said Ntabazalila.