Fees Must Fall activist Kanya Cekeshe says he has no regrets for being part of the movement to stop fee increases at public universities.
Cekeshe, 25, who recently returned home after his release from prison for public violence, spoke during an exclusive interview with News24 this past week. He reflected on Fees Must Fall, his jail time and his release on December, 24 2019 after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of special remission of sentence to certain offenders, probationers and parolees.
Cekeshe was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of public violence and malicious damage to property after he tried to set a police van alight during protests in 2016.
More talks on decolonised education
Now, almost two months after his release, away from closed corridors with limited windows, Cekeshe said he still firmly believed the struggle was worth it. He, however, said a conversation on free decolonised education was still needed.
“I do not have regrets in terms of joining the movement itself because I think [it] was powerful and carried a powerful message,” Cekeshe said.
He could not get into the details surrounding the exact circumstances of his arrest because of the ongoing court case in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. He was appealing a magistrate’s judgment which saw him sent to jail.
He said Fees Must Fall was much more than just about fees and had tackled issues of classism, racism and the outsourcing of workers.
But just five years since the start of Fees Must Fall in 2015, Cekeshe believed the government still needed to do more.
He said he appreciated that the government had moved to turn the National Student Financial Aid Scheme from loans to bursaries for deserving students, and had also “widened” funding at higher education institutions.
But he noted: “They could have done more. It’s not enough. I definitely think the Fees Must Fall movement was worth it. I think that the leadership could have done more.
“We still need to continue having the conversation of how we can realise free decolonised education because we still haven’t realised that.”
He said continued protests at institutions where students are fighting to have their debt eliminated and against financial exclusion were proof that more needed to be done.
“We need to realise that the conversation cannot stop and that people can make a difference, especially those within a space of influence,” the activist emphasised.
Cekeshe now has a passion for the rights of inmates after his time in prison. He said he noted that many inmates were not educated about social issues, which was why he wanted to help them.
“In prison, I realised that there are a whole lot of inmates who wouldn’t be in that situation if they had the proper legal representation,” he said.
Cekeshe believed there was a systemic challenge in the justice system and said he would like to help identify what the issues were and how it can be fixed.
To make his dreams a reality, he has pursued LLB studies with Unisa.