UCT #FeesMustFall activist to do community service, attend counselling

University of Cape Town #FeesMustFall activist Masixole Mlandu must do 150 hours of community service and attend counselling as part of a diversion programme.

These relate to his arrest during campus protests in 2016.

"The Director of Public Prosecutions decided that on humanitarian grounds," Wynberg Regional Court prosecutor Rajen Pillay said on Wednesday.

An agreement was brokered with the help of his lawyer Lufuno Musetsho.

Mlandu was assessed by a social worker and found to be a candidate for one of the community service programmes at the South African National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro).

Mlandu is a political science graduate who is currently studying towards an Honours degree at the university.

He faced four charges relating to an alleged incident at the office of the university's security manager on October 12, 2016 as #FeesMustFall protests that started in 2015 swept to campuses across the country.

The charges Mlandu faced were:

- malicious damage to property for allegedly banging on the blinds of security manager Steven Granger's office "with intention to injure" him or his or the university's property;

- public violence relating to a gathering of around 25 people "unlawfully" assembled to disturb the peace and for allegedly threatening the security manager;

- contempt of court for allegedly disobeying a court interdict and allegedly inciting violence at the university; and

- contravention of the Intimidation Act for allegedly threatening Granger to remove security officers.

He had petitioned the National Prosecuting Authority to have the case dropped but was unsuccessful.

In terms of the diversion programme, he must attend counselling to assess his "learning from the process" and to develop positive coping mechanisms.

These will be free and facilitated by Nicro's Clinical Unit.

His 150 "community service learning hours" are also expected to be arranged by the clinical unit.

"Community service learning is aimed at providing the accused with the opportunity to serve the community which he has wronged by performing voluntary work," the social worker explained in a report.

The focus would be on changing thought processes to bring about behavioural change. It is not meant to be punitive.

"This learning is aimed at the accused engaging in and reflecting on what he has done, and the lessons learnt therefrom," the Nicro report stated.

He must report to Nicro monthly with proof that he is following the diversion programme and will be evaluated when it is finished.

He will also have to complete a "reflective assignment" with his wife regarding what he has been through, what he learnt from the experience, and how he will prevent it from happening again.

Afterwards he should "also be able to identify what he can do in order to prevent himself and others he knows to not find himself in a similar situation again".

He is expected to return to court on October 12. If all goes according to plan, he will not go on trial and could be cleared of the charges.

Speaking to News24 outside court, Mlandu said he wasn't sure what the community service would entail.

Nicro's website states that it handles more than 10 000 diversion cases a year across the country.

In December 2017, former president Jacob Zuma announced fee-free higher education for students from poor and working-class backgrounds.