The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) demands the unconditional scrapping of all charges against Mcebo Dlamini and all other #FeesMustFall activists who are facing trial, the release of Khanya Thandile Cekeshe and others who are in jail, and the pardon of Bonginkosi Khanyile who is due to be sentenced on 24 August.
They were all arrested after participating in the historic #FeesMustFall protests in 2015 and 2016.
SAFTU pledges its solidarity with all these students who are being made scapegoats by a state, which is seeking revenge for a mass movement of thousands of students who were demanding their constitutional right to free, quality and decolonised education.
Bonginkosi Khanyile was found guilty of public violence, failing to comply with a police instruction and possession of a ‘dangerous weapon’ – which was a slingshot! Yet there have been no prosecutions of the security guards who used violence against demonstrators, or police officers who were armed to the teeth with R5 rifles, tear gas and all manner of offensive weapons.
No charges have been laid against the university authorities who sat back and did nothing to stop these assaults on the students for whose safety they were responsible.
The #FeesMustFall and #OutsourcingMustFall movements exposed an education system which is based on capitalism and its drive for profit, in which patriarchy, racism, colonial attitudes and inequality are rife.
The class divisions with society are replicated in the universities, where poor students have to struggle for accommodation, transport and food, while the children of the rich have a good life.
South Africa is yet to move away from the view of education in the apartheid era, as a means to train the black majority to accept that they would only ever perform menial, manual tasks for poverty pay, while the white minority could receive a university education and walk into all the best-paid careers in business and government.
The big majority of working-class youth are still only educated enough to prepare them for a life of either unemployment or exploitation and oppression by the capitalist system.
That is why, in a country in which unemployment, by the more realistic expanded level, is at 37.2% and at the sixth highest level in the world, tertiary education is seen by poor students as the only route to any kind of job.
The #FeesMustFall protests flared up because students saw that the African working-class majority could never throw off the chains of poverty and inequality, without access to free, quality, decolonised education, though even with a degree hundreds of graduate still struggle for work, despite the desperate need for people with the skills which universities and colleges are supposed to provide.
In his desperation to cling on to power, former President Zuma promised free tertiary education to poor students and the ANC Conference agreed to this, but thousands of students remain excluded from accessing education, because they are denied money for fees, food and accommodation because the NFSAS system which manages the payment of grants for students is in chaos.
SAFTU, and all its allies who joined the Working-Class Summit in July, have made education one of its priorities and urges all members to join the demonstrations in solidarity with the students’ call for the unconditional dropping of all charges and the release of those jailed for their role in the #FeesMustFall movement and in support of their call for free, quality and decolonised education for all