06/02/2018 11:03 SAST | Updated 06/02/2018 11:30 SAST

Mcebo Dlamini: '#FeesMustFall Charges Must Be Dropped'

Dlamini wants charges of assault and public violence against him and other #FeesMustFall accused dropped because he can't afford advocate Dali Mpofu's fees

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Student activist and former Wits University SRC president Mcebo Dlamini

Former Wits University SRC president Mcebo Dlamini told HuffPost that it was hard for him and other activists to celebrate free education with charges still hanging over their heads.

"When we want to celebrate and be happy, we also remember that the #FeesMustFall activists are still going to court," Dlamini said.

He said activists should have their charges dropped, because there is no case against them.

"Theirs is to accept that they do not have a case against us, and even if they had a case against us, law dictates they should have dropped the case by now," he said. "Them pronouncing on free education, then means they have to pardon everyone that they have charged, just like the liberation fighters."

Dlamini is one of many student activists who led the movement and were eventually arrested. He faces charges of theft‚ assault‚ public violence and malicious damage to property.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Student leader Mcebo Dlamini is detained during clashes with South African police at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, October 4,2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

He said President Jacob Zuma might not have been aware of the implications of making the announcement, because he did not consider what would happen to students who still face charges.

Late last year, the president announced that government would subsidise free higher education for poor and working-class students.

"Now those are part of the things that limit our celebration and glorifying Jacob Zuma – that he gave us free education, but partly. The man might have made an announcement that he does not understand –why are the #FeesMustFall activists being prosecuted?"

"We have achieved partly what we were fighting for and gives us courage and happiness when we look back and the consequences"– Mcebo Dlamini

Dlamini says he knows of a student who lost his case and is "languishing in jail".

"I am still one of them who is still going to court and pending trial. Some of us are using senior counsel – it is expensive to go to court, and then the matter is postponed. To have Dali [Mpofu] as your advocate is very expensive," he said.

The postgraduate law student said he does not regret being a part of the protests.

"We have achieved partly what we were fighting for, and [that] gives us courage and happiness when we look back. The consequences that we suffered, we say we did not suffer in vain," he said.

He demanded that government now find a way to erase historical debt.

"Our challenge now is ... one of ... previous debts. If universities and government were to work on that issue of previous debt, [for it to] be removed, we will sleep well at night."