A charge sheet produced by one of six people arrested outside Parliament during a university fees protest showed the six were to face a charge of high treason before it was dropped upon their appearance in court.
Kevin French, 63, who was arrested along with Markus Trengove, Nathan Taylor, Chumani Maxwele, Kgotsi Chikane and Lindsey Maasdorp outside Parliament on Wednesday after students forced their way into the precinct, showed media his charge sheet outside the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
This was after they and 23 others arrested on Tuesday at the University of Cape Town were released on a warning.
On the charge sheet, the reasons listed for French’s detention were stated as being “trespassing”, “illegal gathering” and “high treason”.
This contradicts a statement issued by the Hawks on Thursday morning, denying “malicious rumours” that treason was one of the charges.
Spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said contrary to allegations circulating regarding the six being charged with treason “following the mayhem at Parliament on Wednesday”, the Hawks and police sought to set the record straight and “dispel such malicious rumours”.
“During the illegal protest which saw students forcing their way into the Parliament premises, six students were arrested and were detained at Cape Town police station,” he said.
“They will appear before the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, facing charges of trespassing and contravening the Gatherings Act.”
Mulaudzi urged the media to find out the exact charges and get facts before publishing, or posting on their personal social media accounts.
“Irresponsible reporting and speculations have the potential of fuelling unnecessary violence,” he said.
Later outside the court, National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said he could not confirm whether treason was part of the initial charges.
He said they looked at the docket and there was no evidence to pursue treason charges.
All the students who were detained told media they were treated very well by both the Hawks and the police once they were held and moved around.
The demonstrations were sparked last week by Wits University students, who blockaded the entrance to the Johannesburg university’s campus after the institution indicated it would raise fees by 10.5% for 2016.
Demonstrations spread to Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University, UCT, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, the University of Pretoria, the University of the Free State, the University of Limpopo, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Tshwane University of Technology, including its campus in Mbombela, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and the University of Fort Hare. News24