Arrests ordered after students skip court

A magistrate has ordered the arrest of four University of Fort Hare students for failing to appear in court on public violence charges.

East London Regional Court magistrate Deon Rossouw on Friday asked police to arrest Khwezilomso Gama, 21, Zingisa Sogoni, 21, Jason Ohare, 21, and Thulile Rubushe, 22, for skipping the court session.

They were arrested in October alongside 28 other students after setting fire to road traffic management tools to block Fleet Street in Quigney, East London.

This was during a protest over a proposed 8% fee increase, lack of transportation between residences and lack of security on campus.

During the mayhem near the university’s Lwandle Residence, motorists and pedestrians were pelted with stones. Rossouw, addressing the 28 other students who were in attendance, stressed the importance of attending court and issued a stern warning that anyone who was in default would be arrested and kept in prison until the matter was finalised.

“My duty is to prioritise and finalise your case. If your attending court reflects negatively on your academic records it is not my problem,” Rossouw said.

“There are 32 of you and I cannot accommodate everyone.

You need to be in court each time you are warned to appear, irrespective of whether you are writing a test.” He also had stern words for two students who arrived in court late.

“Next time you will appear in this court having woken up from a police cell. Do not laugh, this is not funny. “I am not one of your lecturers in a lecture room, this is a courtroom,” Rossouw said.

State prosecutor Thando Feni told the court the state was ready to proceed with trial, with the students’ lawyer, Advocate Pakamani Gasela, saying the defence was also trial ready. A trial date was set, from February 5 to February 16 next year.

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