Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni
Premium Journalist
2 minute read
28 Sep 2016
6:30 am

Student protests take legal route

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni

Student activists believe they have grounds to force government to implement free tertiary education according to section 29 of the constitution.

Wits students continue to gather support on the steps outside the Great Hall on September 21. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

University of the Witwatersrand student activists of the #FeesMustFall movement will take their protest for free education to the state and the courts this week.

About 40 students, academics and field experts were roped in to draft two policy documents to present to National Treasury on Friday as part of their bid to get government on board for free tertiary education.

The students said they were creating two models for implementation: one of free education and another for cost-cutting at tertiary institutions. Some students claimed the Economic Freedom Fighters leadership and advocate Dali Mpofu was on board with their legal team, but Mpofu told The Citizen he had not yet been formally approached.

Former students representative council leader and senior activist in the #FeesMustFall movement, Mcebo Dlamini, yesterday told journalists their legal teams were planning to sue the Gauteng police commissioner. This was in regard to a student who had allegedly suffered burns on her face and body from a stun grenade despatched by riot police during a #FeesMustFall protest march last week.

“We have three legal teams, one of which is suing the police commissioner, as police acted illegally in throwing stun grenades at the faces of students,” Dlamini said. “We also have a legal team that is dealing with the court interdict to restrain [vice-chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, Adam] Habib from shutting down residences because he has been threatening to do so. “Our third legal team is taking government to the Constitutional Court.”

The activists believe they have grounds to force government not to deprive them of free education, according to section 29 of the constitution.

President of the Students for Law and Social Justice, Tinotenda Muringani, said government had circumnavigated the unconstitutionality of the country’s education system by blaming a lack of resources, “but the student activists have a good chance of being heard in court”.

“Section 29 is clear in terms of basic education, when it comes to how textbooks are distributed and, in the same way, is clear about higher education and that it must be made available to everyone,” Muringani said.