EFF student leader arrested for wearing military garb pleads ignorance

The eNCA interview that landed Aseza Mayaphi in hot water.
The eNCA interview that landed Aseza Mayaphi in hot water.
Image: eNCA

The EFF student leader in hot water for wearing a defence force (SANDF) camouflage shirt claims he was not aware it belonged to the military.

Aseza Mayaphi, 20, appeared in the Bellville Magistrate's Court on Thursday charged with possession of state property.

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) law student’s case was postponed because his lawyer was not available.

He told the court the EFF had hired someone to represent him but he did not know the name of the lawyer.

Outside court, Mayaphi told SowetanLIVE: "I  didn’t know that it was an army shirt. It doesn't even have a badge, but I will answer the rest of the questions in court."

The EFF student command secretary at UWC was accompanied by a group of students in EFF regalia who sang and danced outside the court.

Mayaphi was arrested by military police on Tuesday after he was interviewed on television station eNCA on Monday wearing the outfit. He was talking about his party's "Sizofunda ngenkani" campaign aimed at ensuring students' access to higher education.

In a statement, the army said: "The SANDF uniforms and related items are registered for use solely by regular force, reserve force and honorary members of the SANDF in execution of their duties as stipulated in the SA constitution and civilians/non-members of the country’s military are prohibited by law to wear such uniforms."

The SANDF said if convicted, Mayaphi faced a fine or imprisonment for up to five years. The shirt was confiscated.

Mayaphi’s fellow students said the SANDF had overreacted. Vangeli Malima dismissed the charges as frivolous.

"Civilians across the country have these jackets and shirts. The army itself is failing to regulate them," said Malima. "You can go to the campus (UWC) now, you will find students wearing these jackets. You go to the townships, it is the same.

"We fail to understand the rationale behind these charges. We believe it could be politically motivated.

"One thing we have noticed is that the government is not focusing on the message that Mayaphi was passing but on the shirt. It means that, even after democracy, the military is still playing a role in victimising students.

"That is what they did best under apartheid and we are worried about that and don't feel safe as young people of this country."

Another student, Sankara Bizela, shared Malima’s sentiments.

"I feel that the SANDF is bored. There are many useful things that they could do," said Bizela. "They are being very opportunistic. Why don’t they have a programme to collect these clothes from the public? They reacted because the EFF is involved."

The matter was postponed to March 28 for further investigation.

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