UJ vows to catch auditorium arsonists

African News Agency

University of Johannesburg arson attack. Photo CICA

The University of Johannesburg on Monday vowed to have the arsonists responsible for the burning of its main auditorium apprehended and brought to justice after the fire caused damage estimated at R100 million.

Prof Ihron Rensburg said the burning of the 1,000-seater auditorium occurred at around 2am on Monday.

“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,” Rensburg old reporters.

“UJ is mandated to empower 52,000 young people and their families and communities with education, skills, and the tools to allow them to participate fully in the South African economy, and we will not allow a minuscule, violent minority to destroy the infrastructure necessary for our task.”

The perpetrators broke into the venue at Kingsway camp, and destroyed computer laboratories, including equipment used to conduct career assessment and guidance for students and prospective students, he said.

Rensburg said: “No one was injured. The blaze was eventually brought under control by Johannesburg emergency services, but the building has effectively been gutted.”

Campus security services and the police were reviewing closed circuit video footage and interviewed potential witnesses to identify the arsonists.

Rensburg said the mid-year exams that were scheduled to take place in the computer laboratories, and a number of graduation ceremonies due to take place in the auditorium in June would have to be rescheduled and arrangements made to accommodate the exams and upcoming graduations.

Lectures continued at the campus on Monday, with some of the students oblivious to what happened earlier in morning.

Two first-year students at the campus said they were not aware of the incident.

“The auditorium is burnt down? By who? I just got to campus just now, that is bad news. Who burns a university building at 2am…in such a freezing weather?,” asked a first year social work student, who refused to give her name.

Her friend, also a first year student, said she heard about the incident on radio earlier, but thought the fire was extinguished before it could damage the auditorium.

Meanwhile, disciplinary action against 12 students identified as having attempted to disturb the Student Representative Council (SRC) elections in April would proceed this week as planned. The SRC elections were marred by disruptions as a group of students held protests through the campus. Management said at the time that the group tried to petrol bomb a voting station, leading to elections being shut down for a day.

The elections were eventually concluded and the SA Students Congress (SASCO) won the majority of the SRC seats.

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