By Siziwe Ntyinkala
It has been two years since seven Nelson Mandela University student leaders were arrested during a February protest in 2020. They were fighting for students’ right to free education, including funding, housing, and registration. Three of them were released on the same day, while four of which namely Zukisa Sigoxo, Ngcaliyethu Dingani, Siyamdumisa Vena & Siyamcela Mantshontsho were released on bail and are still under investigation and are appearing in court up to date. Their case has been dragging with no concrete evidence or charges since 2020, raising the question of whether the state and the institution are seeking justice or attempting to demonstrate what will happen should there be any more protest using this tactic.
The lack of support from the student community as the case proceeds is a sign that the case has been long forgotten, even though this was a fight for the benefit of the entire student community, the struggle continues to this day.
“Indeed, the situation of our arrest in a student protest in 2020 has affected me severely. Academically I couldn’t complete my degree on record time because of the stress of constantly having to appear in court almost every month. The postponements are costly because I must save money, I don’t even have much to be able to travel to court. Emotionally it’s so demanding and draining. One could see that we are isolated and we are on our own. I even attended counselling because the load was unbearable. This case has made my life a misery, it’s so heartbreaking when you realise that despite being subjected to courts every month. The issues you were arrested for are still not resolved. Students are still struggling to register, to find accommodation. Free education is a dream that seems to take forever to come through” says Zukisa Sigoxo. On their court appearance on February 11th, 2022, their case was postponed to March 22nd, 2022. This gives their attorney, Adv. Nyoka, time to prepare as the court presented new evidence.
In times of oppression, we must reaffirm our values and commitments as students; justice is more than a buzzword; it is a rallying call. Now is the time to put it into action through advocacy and actions because what appears to be justice to others is misery to some. It is essential to fight against the unjust treatment of the poor in academic institutions, as well as other injustices. Injustices never rest and we cannot either; an injury to one is an injury to all.
Photo credit: news24