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Suspects sought as UJ auditorium goes up in flames

Another week, another educational institution burns to ashes. On Sunday night, the Sanlam Auditorium at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Kingsway Campus was burnt down. This follows a trend of sorts – two weeks of schools being burnt down in Vuwani, Limpopo, and a building at the Vaal University of Technology being set alight as well.

According to a statement issued by the university, the costs of the damage amount to over R100 million. Vice Chancellor Ihron Rensburg confirmed that the auditorium had been broken into and fire-bombed, and damage had also been done to the computer labs above the auditorium. He vowed that the perpetrators would be found and jailed.

“We will do everything within our power and in cooperation with the authorities to follow important leads, find them, prosecute them, and send them to prison for as long as possible”, said Rensburg.

The university’s security services are working with police and reviewing CCTV footage to try and identify the suspects involved. Fortunately, no one was injured in the blaze as it happened in the early hours of Monday morning.

According to Lindokuhle Xulu, a member of UJ Fees Must Fall, students believe that the only way to be heard is by burning down buildings. “So there is a possibility that students have resorted in burning because they cannot engage with the university”.

Xulu suggested that there might be two possible instigators of the fire. “There are two possibilities – it can be the bouncers because they want to remain in the university; the second possibility is that you have 12 students who are suspended.” Earlier in May, a student was arrested for protesting in solidarity with 12 students who had been suspended for disrupting SRC elections. The Fees Must Fall movement says that UJ represses student protests at every instance. The university has confirmed that the disciplinary proceedings against those 12 students will proceed this week as planned.

UJ’s EFF Student Command have released a statement condemning the arson and calling for the bouncers hired by the university to be removed immediately. They claim that the university spends R18 million on the increased security, which fails to keep students and staff safe. They also vowed to continue fighting to have the 12 suspended students reinstated.

With the recent upsurge of buildings being set alight in protests, the question must be asked: is the burning of institutions a dangerous new trend, or the only resort of protestors to have their voices heard?

What do you think? Comment below or tweet us @thedailyvox.

2 Comments
  1. Jacobus says

    So, shout loud and burn the whole university down. Then all will be free. No charges to wander round the ruins. And all will remember the stupid shout.

  2. UJFMF says

    For Immediate Release: UJ manipulating fire to build prejudice against 12 Suspended Students
    May 16, 2016

    It is with concern that OccupyUJ/UJFeesMustFall learns of the fire at the Sanlam Auditorium and E Labs in the Auckland Park Kingsway campus of the University of Johannesburg. This unfortunate event has affected facilities in conditions where students already have limited access, and usually form long queues at the buses and also in our libraries to use computers. As students, we are concerned about losing access to these spaces. We already lose valuable time just to gain access to these limited facilities.

    For now, Police have said the cause is unknown and they do not know who (if anyone) did this. However, UJ management has already stated not only do they claim to know the cause, they know that supposedly ‘a violent minority’ started the fire. No evidence has thus far been brought forward to back their claims. They have linked this event, the cause of which remains unknown, to UJs case against 12 suspended students who are due for a hearing on Tuesday 17th May, 2016 at Kempton Park. This unusual location is far from any UJ campus and clearly intended to isolate them. Also, the timing of the fire, and the statements made in public by UJ management in relation to this, is malicious and reveals prejudice against the suspended students and increases our anxiety on whether they will face any fair disciplinary hearing.

    We call on the UJ management to refrain from making any unfounded criminal allegations against any perceived dissenting element in the University community. This is reminiscent of apartheid strategy of repression. The University management has made an application for a 200 page interdict that essentially criminalises even holding meetings for the purpose of discussing any protest action or demonstrations.

    These broad terms cover any gathering whatsoever and undermine the freedom of association and expression.

    The 12 suspended students are facing a case linked to a prayer session held in memorial of the death of our fellow student, AB Championaire, and an attempt to protest the holding of elections in what was a moment of crisis. Disruption is inherent to protest. As Umar Khalid, a university student in Jawaharlal Nehru University in India says, ‘a university which does not allow dissent becomes a prison’. We consider the university as a space in which the right to dissent and intellectual critique are fertile soil to envision an alternative to the current exploitative and oppressive society. Instead, UJ is indeed a prison, an ‘over-securitised’ campus, where the entire university community, members of the public and especially black bodies live in fear of violence (many cases of sexual harassment have been reported) by private security. UJ’s protest laws have been challenged in its own Senate as being unconstitutional. See here link to report: http://www.r2k.org.za/2015/12/09/download-preliminary-account-of-human-rights-violations-against-protesters-at-university-of-johannesburg/

    It is even more tragic that the loss of property should be of more concern than the avoidable death of our fellow student. To recall from our previous statement on this tragedy: ‘The prayer was held within the area permitted by an interdict obtained by UJ last year, in memory of a mature student, AB Championare, who died of asthma on the 10th floor of a UJ residence in April. The lift was out of order, the university protection services took 50 minutes to respond, and they did not bring a first aid kit with them. Students questioned why maintenance is being neglected while the university spends about R2-million a month, according to the VC, on extra private security. Other charges against the students relate to an incident where the driver of a university bus was apparently instructed by her supervisor to kidnap students and workers by driving the bus to an unknown destination after some students began singing on the bus.’

    UJ Fees Must Fall calls on the entire University community to support the demand for a fair hearing for the 12 suspended students.

    OCCUPYUJ/UJFEESMUSTFALL

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