DURBAN, January 28 – Convicted #FeesMustFall Durban University of Technology (DUT) student Bonginkosi Khanyile is to spend the next three years under house arrest, the Durban Magistrate’s Court ordered on Monday.
Khanyile will only be allowed out to attend university and must take part in eight hours of community service every month for the duration of the sentence.
Khanyile was also ordered to pay a fine of R5000 or face three years’ imprisonment, both of which were suspended for five years.
The courtroom was overflowing with the popular EFF student leader’s supporters, friends and family, with supporters also gathered outside the courthouse, as had been the case at previous appearances.
In handing down sentence, magistrate Siphiwe Hlophe said that Khanyile was facing serious charges, and although protesting was the right of students, it was concerning that studies had been disrupted. Free education was a good cause, he said, “but vandalism is not”.
Arguing in mitigation of sentence earlier, Khanyile’s legal representative, advocate Danie Combrink, told the court that the social worker assigned to Khanyile found him to be remorseful for his actions, despite what the police’s colonel Langa Mhlongo had said in aggravation of sentence.
Mhlongo is a cluster commander in the South African Police Services and was leading a unit investigating Fees Must Fall cases. He told the court that Khanyile had shown no respect for police officers during the violent and destructive protests, and had instead incited other protestors to “attack” police. Khanyile had also been quoted in the media as saying he was only pleading guilty to “confuse the enemy”, said Mhlongo.
He said that Khanyile had refused to have his fingerprints taken and had threatened police, saying he would “come for” them.
Combrink told the court that the appropriate redress would be admitting Khanyile into a community service programme with the goal of rehabilitation, or a suspended sentence. His client was not able to afford a fine, he said. As someone who was influential in the community, Khanyile could be a force for good.
Acting for the state, senior public prosecutor Roshiela Benimadho said that with more acts of public violence occurring in the country, citizens would be looking to the court to ensure that appropriate punishment was handed down.
Video evidence had shown Khanyile had scant regard for the police, she said, as he had incited other protesting students to “moer” them.
She said that because Khanyile had used a slingshot to attack police, it showed that his actions were premeditated. There needed to be “zero tolerance” to protests that turned violent, she said. As for rehabilitation, it would only be effective if the accused were “genuinely remorseful”.
In August 2018, Khanyile pleaded guilty to public violence, possession of a dangerous weapon – a slingshot – and two counts of failure to comply with police orders.
He was arrested in September 2016 during running battles between police and DUT students that took place during the height of the protests.
Khanyile made national headlines when his bail application made it all the way to the Constitutional Court after being denied at the lower courts. After close on six months in prison, the Constitutional Court granted him bail of R250. (ANA)