Justice Minister Michael Masutha appears to be using the criminal justice system to play a political game and was meddling in the role of the courts when he announced that he would help the #FeesMustFall activists to seek amnesty from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), says a legal expert.
This meddling undermined the courts as well as the NPA, constitutional law expert Shadrack Gutto told The Citizen yesterday.
Professor Gutto said the minister was wrong in making the “controversial statement” as he was playing a political game with the criminal justice system.
He said: “For those who haven’t gone through the court system yet, this would be undermining the role of the courts and in my view, the minister made a controversial statement. He is meddling with the process as a whole.”
Masutha advised the #FeesMustFall students to approach the NPA directly, but reminded them the prosecuting authority had the right to prosecute without fear, favour or prejudice.
“The NPA is not free to negotiate a political agreement with students,” he said. “They have to go through the whole process before anything else can happen.”
In a joint media briefing with the Durban University of Technology #FeesMustFall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile, Masutha told the media the outcomes of his engagement with Khanyile last week.
Khanyile, together with his mother, had camped outside the Union Buildings for six days, hoping to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa to seek a presidential pardon for his involvement in the 2016 student protests.
He was found guilty earlier this month for using a “dangerous weapon” – a slingshot – against police in 2016.
Masutha met with Khanyile on the Union Buildings lawns on Friday evening, where he agreed to help the #FeesMustFall students in approaching the NPA to review their case to prosecute.
Speaking to the media yesterday, he said the students should compile a list of affected student activists, including those in custody, charged or awaiting prosecutorial decision, on trial and sentenced. This also includes those who are serving custodial sentences in correctional facilities.
“[We have] undertaken to assist the students in approaching the NPA to consider evaluating each case, specifically in order to determine the seriousness or otherwise of the charges …,” said the minister.
But Khanyile described the agreement as “wishy washy”, saying Masutha instead gave them a “lecture about law”.
“Our demand says there must be general pardon and amnesty for all #FeesMustFall activists,” said Khanyile.
“The minister gave us a lecture on the constitution and on government. The minister indeed showed character of sympathy, but he also became a typical politician.”