South Africa’s schools are burning

On 5 May, 19 schools were damaged and burned down in Vuwani, Limpopo. Earlier this year, there were a number of attempted arson attacks at the University of Witwatersrand and the gutting of building at North West University’s Mafikeng campus earlier this year. And now the University of Johannesburg is the latest casualty, after a fire that caused damage estimated at R100-million.

Management at the University of Johannesburg has to find alternative venues for graduations and examinations after a fire caused extensive damage to the main auditorium at the university’s Auckland Park Kingsway Campus in the early hours of Monday morning.

A fire, caused by a petrol bomb that was tossed into another building, was extinguished by security staff at the same campus less than a week ago.

Addressing the media yesterday, deputy vice-chancellor of strategic services Mpho Letlape described yesterday’s fire as horrifying.

She says the fire was caused by a “disappearing minority” who were desperate, but had failed, to mobilise support from the larger student body.

“They have tried, over and over again, to disrupt the academic programme and they will fail again. These arsonists will be found and jailed,” Letlape says.

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The 1000-seater auditorium, where graduations normally take place, and computer labs, where examinations and career assessments for students and prospective students were conducted, were damaged in the fire.

“We will do everything, in co-operation with the authorities, to track these criminals down, prosecute them and send them to prison for as long as possible.”

Exams were scheduled to take place in the computer labs, and with graduation ceremonies scheduled for next month, the fire has left the university “inconvenienced”.

It now has to find alternative venues.

Tshireletso Mati, chairman of the EFF student command at UJ, dismissed accusations made earlier by newly elected student representative council president Onwabile Lubhelwana, who told the media the EFF was to blame for the fire.

Mati says the student command had planned to “demonstrate” outside campus yesterday against the suspension of 12 students but it had to postpone.

“We condemn the violence and criminality that occurred. We distance ourselves from such and we condemn the utterances of the SRC president that the EFF was behind this incident,” Mati says.

The City Press reported on Sunday that UJ spent nearly double its monthly expenditure on security from R3,3-million before the #FeesMustFall campaign to R6-million between November 2015 and January this year.

By Poppy Louw for

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