South Gauteng High Court Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng yesterday had stern words for student activist Mcebo Dlamini of the #FeesMustFall movement.
Dlamini was arrested in November on charges of public violence, theft, malicious damage to property and other charges following ongoing violence at Wits University during protests for free tertiary education.
“Let me tell you, Mr Dlamini, this is between me and you,” Mokgoatlheng said.
“I was also a student … We wanted to chase the white man into the sea, you still want to coexist with the white man. What I’m trying to say is you as a leader have an opportunity and you also have the responsibility to conduct protests in a lawful manner.”
He said burning institutions didn’t benefit anyone.
“We can’t, as a nation, afford that type of destruction. During apartheid, that could have been justified because that government was not a government of the majority.
“But … this government is the government of everybody. So, if you want to make a point like you guys are entitled to do, you can do it without the destruction of property,” the judge told Dlamini.
Mokgoatlheng noted that the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court, which had denied Dlamini bail, was “patently” misdirected by findings from two photographs, which didn’t show Dlamini’s face and had no evidentiary value.
He accepted the court’s finding that Dlamini had lied about having to write exams as the ostensible reason for why he needed bail.
However, it wasn’t enough to keep Dlamini in jail.
Afterwards, Dlamini said: “I am very strong and I hope the decision that the court pronounced today will have an effect on other cases where #FeesMustFall leaders are still held in prison.”
His lawyer, Thabo Kwinana, said they would move to have the charges withdrawn.
Dlamini’s trial begins in June.