South African student activists are demanding a blanket amnesty for their colleagues convicted of crimes arising from violent #FeesMustFall protests in 2017, a senior official in the presidency has said.
Presidency Director-General Cassius Lubisi said he had received a memorandum from the activists at the Union Buildings (seat of government) in Pretoria on Wednesday, 2 January 2019, following a long march from KwaZulu-Natal to Leeukop correctional centre in Gauteng Province where student leader Kanya Cekeshe is serving a sentence arising from the #FeesMustFall protest.
Lubisi said he met the marching delegation at the Union Buildings and received the memorandum on behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Lubisi told the delegation that government would respond to the memorandum, which also addresses unemployment and other issues affecting youth, he said.
The director-general drew the group’s attention to the offer extended five months ago by Justice and Correctional Services Minister, Michael Masutha, to help #FeesMustFall activists comply with the procedures required for amnesty applications.
At the time, Masutha pointed out to the #FeesMustFall movement that no blanket exemption from prosecution or presidential pardons would be granted for students linked to #FeesMustFall-related violence.
However, the minister indicated that he was willing to guide students in making applications to the National Prosecuting Authority for a review of prosecutorial decisions in cases involving students who were already charged and whose matters are currently on trial.
The minister stated that Ramaphosa could not interfere with judicial processes and said presidential pardons were granted in respect of convicted and sentenced persons only on the basis of the information they provide and in circumstances where applicants showed good cause.
According to Masutha, the severity of the charges concerned and public interest in these cases were among the factors the president would need to take into account before deciding whether to grant amnesty or not.