Jailed FeesMustFaller fails appeal, may seek presidential pardon

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Kanya Cekeshe, the only #FeesMustFall activist still imprisoned, has petitioned the high court to appeal his conviction and sentence, due to his former lawyer being unprepared and that his inexperience was the reason he had not gotten a fair trial. Magistrate Theunis Carstens dismissed the appeal and bail applications this week, saying it was “crystal clear” that Cekeshe admitted to the charges against him. He added that if Cekeshe had been dissatisfied with the quality of legal advice, he should have raised objections against the advocate after his sentence in December 2017.

Cekeshe has been in Leeuwkop prison since December 2017, after he was sentenced to five years behind bars for public violence and malicious damage to property. He pleaded guilty to setting a police vehicle alight during a #FeesMustFall protest in 2016. Cekeshe’s new legal representative, advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, made a case to grant Cekeshe leave to appeal his conviction. Ngcukaitobi criticised the state for relying on video footage that apparently shows Cekeshe setting the police vehicle alight, but never producing it as evidence in court. He added that if the video evidence exists, as the state alleges, it was withheld from Cekeshe.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has offered to help prepare his application for a presidential pardon. Shortly after Cekeshe’s applications were dismissed, Lamola tweeted: “We note the dismissal of both the leave to appeal and bail for #FeesMustFall activists Khaya Cekeshe by the Johannesburg Magistrate Court. We’re in the process of urgently assisting him with an application for presidential pardon or other legally available avenues.”

While EFF leader Julius Malema said the party had “deployed the best legal brains” to help set Cekeshe free, EFF Student Command (EFFSC) president Mandla Shikwambana has promised a national shutdown. “As the student command we will liaise with all branches of the EFFSC across the country in planning a shutdown and I can tell you that it is going to happen very soon” he told City Press journalist Zamayirha Peter after the verdict was handed down.

UPDATE: The proposed application for a presidential pardon has been put on hold. Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola has stated: “I have since been advised that he has applied for leave to appeal. This effectively means that the application for a pardon cannot be entertained alongside the judicial process” – Read more on the Mail & Guardian site