University of Johannesburg suspends 17 students suspected of burning auditorium

The University of Johannesburg has suspended 17 students who have been allegedly implicated in the burning of its auditorium in May that resulted in damage estimated at about R100-million.

Kaamini Reddy, senior manager for strategic communications, confirmed that the students have been suspended from today and will remain on suspension until their disciplinary hearings which were expected to take place very soon.

“The South African Police Services, the Hawks and forensic investigators appointed by the university’s insurers worked closely with the university to identify the perpetrators of this heinous act.”

She said that they had not yet been criminally charged.

“In light of the extremely serious nature of the incident, the university does not consider it appropriate to delay the disciplinary proceedings pending conclusion of criminal proceedings, which may only commence sometime in the future.”

She said that it was also not in the interests of the university and its stakeholders to permit the students to remain on campus “in anticipation of criminal proceedings”.

“The university is nevertheless mindful of its responsibility not to prejudice the state’s criminal case and hence it will not be prudent to make detailed information about the evidence in its possession, public.”

Meanwhile, in a letter to UJ’s vice-chancellor, Professor Ihron Rensburg, the central SRC said that the suspension of the student leadership and campus student activists is “disturbing, distasteful and proves that managers of the university are seriously committed to intimidating, silencing students and weakening constitutionally elected structures”.

“It is for the above-mentioned reasons that disorder, political unrest and anarchy will continue to characterise the image of the University of Johannesburg.”

The letter stated that: “The truth remains we are suspended not because were are guilty of arson but because we remain loyal to the struggle for fee free education and our bold refusal to discuss fee increments.”

The university did not divulge the names of those suspended.

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Prega Govender
Prega Govender is the Mail & Guardians education editor. He was a journalist at the Sunday Times for almost 20 years before joining the M&G in May 2016. He has written extensively on education issues pertaining to both the basic and higher education sectors.

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