By Gaby Ndongo
Members of the Historic Walk – which began at Isandlwana, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), headed for the Union buildings in Pretoria – led by #FeesMustFall activists yesterday handed over a memorandum to the prison head of Leeuwkop Correctional Services in Bryanston.
Leeuwkop Prison is where one of the #FeesMustFall activists, Khanya Cekeshe, is serving a five year sentence and his second festive season behind bars after being convicted last year December at the Johannesburg Regional Court.
Cekeshe faced charges of arson, public violence and malicious damage to state property. He was convicted after a video footage, taken during the 2016 #FeesMustFall protests, showed him throwing an item into a police van before it burnt. All charges amounted to an eight years sentence of which three was suspended.
The memorandum makes provision for the following:
- “The Prison must write to the Presidency requesting an intervention for the release and therefore pardon of Khanya Cekeshe as he does not deserve to serve sentencing with hard-core criminals.”
- “We demand the release and pardon of all #FeesMustFall activists across the country . . .”
- “The Prison must commit to a progressive, transparent, urgent, accountable, deadline-based, well-structured and #HistoricWalk inclusive programme which will ensure that the demand forms a democracy that works for all is achieved.”
The context of the #HistoricWalk, according to the memorandum, is constructed by:
- A response of the “many issues” faced by the South African youth;
- A “solidarity with the #FreeKhanyaCekeshe and PardonMeMrPresident movement”;
- A call for the “immediate address of a number of issues which young people across all races and genders face in the country”;
- The urge for government to take “serious” the lives of youth in South Africa. The movement prioritises the lives of the poor and marginalised. “We then call and warn the Presidency to receive this memorandum with the seriousness and urgent it deserves . . . Ours is a call for a democracy that works for all”.
#FeesMustFall Activist Bonginkosi Khanyile is leading the Walk from KZN, which began on Tuesday, 18th December. Khanyile has served six months in jail for his activities during the student protests and awaits his trail scheduled for Monday, 28th January 2019.
According to a News24 report, “At the time of Khanyile’s protest last year, the Presidency said it was misdirected, as it should have been targeted at the Department of Justice.
“Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said that there were clear processes in place for those seeking presidential pardons, and that the president could not interfere with the prosecutorial decisions of the National Prosecuting Authority. He also could not decree a blanket amnesty for the activists, she said.”
The trekking, among other objectives such as solidarity for Cekeshe, served to show to the president how far student activists are willing to reach to highlight the struggles of poor South African youth, Khanyile said when speaking to eNCA. These primarily are the increasing unemployment rate as well as poverty, which both can encourage a person into committing criminal activities.
A walk to Khanya Cekeshe
With a car in the front serving as guidance and another at the back marking the end of the group, the Historic Walk members mostly occupying one side of the road walked from the MTN Taxi Rank at the Johannesburg CBD to Leeuwkop Correctional Services in Bryanston.
Liberation and revolutionary songs accommodated the atmosphere they carried with an explicit dedication of holding high their placards. These were of phrases such as “#FREE KHANYA CEKESHE”, “KZN 2 PTA”, “TO HELL WITH UNEMPLOYMENT”, “ECONOMIC INCLUSION”, and “LONG WALK TO PRETORIA”.
The colours of red, green, yellow and black dominated the attires donned by what seen as a crowd made up of leftist student leaders and a petite fragment of their constituencies. A leftist is a person who champions and practices left-wing thinking, which demands for equality and seeks to eradicate hierarchies found in society.
[SLIDESHOW] Participants of the Historic Walk holding their placards while walking to Leeuwkop Correctional Services in Bryanston.
They had a crucial piece in their position: a typed and printed memorandum to be handed to the head of Leeuwkop Correctional Services.
EARLIER COVERAGE: #FeesMustFall Activist And Others Trekking To Union Buildings
However, the march was not well organised, said one of the sources. The scheduled departure time from the MTN Taxi Rank was 07:00am, but the members only made way later than 10:00, stopping along the journey with some people at the back of the group saying that the wrong road had been taken.
Due to the delay, two taxis were rented to transport members from Sandton City to Bryanston. The first round departed at roughly 15:10, reaching at Bryanston no later than 15:40. When the main party arrived at the Prison, persons mostly with EFF attires had already driven in with more coming after several minutes.
The leaders of the Walk were nowhere to be seen in the crowd while no less than 15 km was left of the 29,4 km (31 min) via De Villiers Graaff Motorway/M1 when driving, and 24,6 km (5 h 1 min) via William Nicol Dr/M81 and Main Rd/M71 when walking from the CBD to Bryanston.
Some of the members were intoxicated with alcohol and cannabis: several of them smoking the herb along the way.
A source, who is not identified to avoid victimisation, told The Open Journal that “the leaders are less of what I thought of them,” adding that he sees the Walk as an exercise aimed to brick about “self-glory”.
Another source said that “people on the road have been generous” providing them with food and water on their way to Gauteng from KZN; donations and other forms of funding were also rendered. Shelters have been offered by churches and crèches, the Unisa student said. Petrol garages are other places that the activists have spent their nights.
[SLIDESHOW] Members en route to Bryanston; some wearing clothing that shouts leftist politics.
[WATCH] Xolani Sibanyoni and Bonginkosi Khanyile Addressing Members.
One of the Walk’s participants, Xolani Sibanyoni, updated the other members roughly around 4pm, saying that the “Prison closes at 2pm and so as by prison rule, we’re not able to visit Khanya Cekeshe”. None the less, the “initial communication said (the) jail will close at 4pm,” he added.
Cekeshe’s siblings – father, mother, uncle and grandmother – were present, with the father emphasising that his son’s mindset and strength remain unchanged from the first day he was imprisoned. The mother made a joke stating that Cekeshe is “becoming more handsome” as he lightens in complexion.
The Walk team compiled two memorandums. One to be handed to the head of Prison, urging for aid in the process of getting Cekeshe out of Prison. “As the head of the Prison, you must take a side and say that the boy (Khanya) doesn’t belong to be (in Leeuwkop Prison) with high class criminals,” said Sibanyoni when speaking to participants.
“If free education is a policy now, why are #FeesMustFall activists being incarcerate,” he continued to say.
The second memo has been drafted to be handed over to the President, Cyril Ramaphosa, for “issues of unemployment, poverty, Chinese and Pakistan”. In several of the songs being sung, members cited phrases such as “down with Chinese and Pakistans”, “Black power, black power . . . no sharing” and “Kiss . . . kill the Boer”.
[SLIDESHOW] The rain soaked memo to the Prison head.
The Walk’s spokesperson, Philani Nduli, acknowledged that the walk from KZN was a strain on the body and the mind. He then claimed that the recent prison searches at the Leeuwkop Correctional Services are due to their visit. Furthermore, the march galvanized the respective authorities at KZN to build a road in KZN.
Members of the EFF’s branch, where the Prison is located, were present to show support as they “support free education”, which is a course championed by #FeesMustFall activists such as Khanya Cekeshe.
The party’s student arm, the EFF Student Command (EEFSC) with its national spokesperson Mangaliso Sambo, Black Conscious Movement and SASCO were also among those who attended the session. TOJ
[SLIDESHOW] Historical Walk Members Singing and Dancing at Leeuwkop Prison and then being addressed by the #FeesMustFall activist, Bonginkosi Khanyile.
[WATCH] Historical Walk Members Singing and Dancing at Leeuwkop Prison.
Reporting by Gaby Ndongo; Editing by Valerie Mncube.
Feature image: Historic Walk team walking to Leeuwkop Correctional Services from Johannesburg’s CBD, seen at Houghton on Sunday, 30th December 2018.
Feature image and other image courtesy to Gaby Ndongo.