Photo: Emma Phetla – A group of students protesting for their fellow students’ suspensions to be lifted, outside UJ’s Kingsway Campus
In a quest to uncover developments in the case of the burning of the UJ Sanlam Auditorium, OTR spoke to a group of students who were suspiciously interdicted from entering the institution, after the notorious event.
Some of these suspended students are organizational leaders on their various campuses and they believe that their suspension stems from last year’s #FeesMustFall – and #OutsourcingMustFall movements that turned out violently but, also from the lack of understanding from University management that they, as students, are free to exercise their ideological views in a calm and organized manner.
“After a student passed away on one of our campuses, we organized a memorial service in his honor, but it soon took the stance of a comrade march and that angered management and a few of us were suspended.” Claims were made by fellow students that unserviced elevators were the indirect cause that led the young man to succumb to an asthma attack. Students later protested against the misuse of funds by the institution, which could have otherwise been used to service the elevators on campuses and make the environment safer for them.
“We were suspended for planning the memorial for one of our own and while those suspension applications against us were pending, we were not allowed on campus, so we suffered academically.”
At the time of the burning of the Auditorium, the group of students that were implicated, were all suspended and could not access the institution without being removed by the ‘campus bouncers’. “We were all suspended but questions of our whereabouts were posed.”
The common concern among students was how the auditorium could have been ‘victim’ of an arson attack when the structure was guarded by security personnel 24/7. “To us it was strange so we made informed allegations that the bouncers were the ones that burned down the auditorium in hopes of saving their jobs, because if nothing barbaric happens on campus, then there really is no need for them.”
The group also claims that on more than one occasion, some of them were followed home by these bouncers who were angered by their claims. The university’s management also forced confessions out of them by threats of being sent to prison due to “incriminating evidence” that was found. “They insisted that they could place us at the scene, but we were never even allowed within 100 meters of the campus never mind enter it carrying matches, lighters and petrol to burn things down.”
In the interdict against the group of students and other entities it is stated that the students will not be affected academically by the terms of the interdict. At the time these interviews were conducted (20 – 27 June 2016) they had still not written any exams or submitted any assessments. “All our hearings are postponed repeatedly and we have not participated in anything academic since April.”
When asked about these allegations the media liaison and representative of the institution, Herman Esterhuizen, could not provide relevant comments on the suspension of these students and the steps that were taken to ensure that they are not disadvantaged academically. Besides stating that all workers are expected to be insourced no later than 30 June 2016, no comments were made on the steps that the institution is taking to ensure that the needs of all their students are fulfilled to a point where protests are not seen as being necessary or the only way in which a platform for communication between students and management is created.
Students of the University of Johannesburg are free to exercise their ideological beliefs and have their various meetings on campus, “as long as student gatherings are in terms of the university’s student regulations, are peaceful and do not disrupt academic and administrative activities or place the safety of students and staff in jeopardy” said Esterhuizen.
Investigations in regards to the auditorium are still underway and the University of Johannesburg, with the assistance of Advocate Cassie Badenhorst are offering a reward worth R10 000 to anyone with relevant information that could assist the case.
“The SAPS is investigating the matter of the arson attack at the auditorium and we will communicate the outcome accordingly. We are determined that together with law enforcement agencies and prosecuting authorities that these criminals will be identified, tracked Down, convicted and sent to jail” said Esterhuizen.
For the few students that were suspended the granting of the court order “massacred” them academically. “Rensburg claims that the auditorium was R 100-million and he associates the burning thereof with us.”
!!!REWARD WORTH R10 000 OFFERED TO ANYONE WITH RELEVANT INFORMATION!!!
Anyone with information that is relevant and could assist speedy convictions should sms the word “REWARD” to 45813
[OTR independently chose to not publish the names of the students that were interviewed in this article, to avoid them being possibly further victimized in regards to this situation.]
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