SRC’s Nguse arsonist arrested

2016-10-13 11:39
The Malherbe residence’s A Block TV room that was left gutted by protesters who set fire to the residence during the early hours of yesterday morning.

The Malherbe residence’s A Block TV room that was left gutted by protesters who set fire to the residence during the early hours of yesterday morning. (Supplied)

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One of the two men arrested for suspected arson attacks at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday night is not a student.

University management is now concerned that a “criminal element” has “infiltrated” the campus under the guise of protest action.

There was a tense yet calm atmosphere on the campus on Tuesday evening until 11 pm when authorities raced to the Deneys Schreiner lecture theatre on the main campus after reports that students had attempted to torch a lecture hall there.

It is believed two men had entered the building through a rear door (the main entrance is constantly under heavy guard) and set fire to the lecture theatre.

Only the doors to the venue were damaged.

According to a police source, officers and security personnel dashed through the building and spotted two figures trying to escape.

The source said the pair had locked themselves into a room and when police burst in, they were pretending to study.

The university’s Lesiba Seshoka said one of the arrested men is a registered student and the other is a former student.

“It is hoped that the arrests are a breakthrough in the investigation into the many acts of arson that have plagued the Pietermaritzburg campus in recent weeks,” Seshoka said.

As the crowds of bystanders began to disperse from the lecture theatre — where police, firefighters and security were in high numbers — flames began to appear from inside a building in the Malherbe residence on Alan Paton Avenue.

It is believed a group of protesters had set fire to the A Block’s TV room. The flames soon raged out of control and left the entire room completely gutted.

After the fire was put out, all that was left were ashes and blackened walls.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, UKZN Pietermaritzburg Student Representative Council president Siphelele Nguse said neither of the two arrested men were students.

“They were caught by Mi7 and the RMS while doing the act. There is an investigation on them with regards to the burning of the other buildings of the institutions,” Nguse wrote.

“This further proves our view that our university is burnt by people who are not students. Therefore, this nullifies the myth that it is students who burn universities Our institutions are burnt by thugs who have no sense of belonging in our institutions.”

Meanwhile, Seshoka said there was no major damage from the fire set at an office situated within a film studies unit at the Centre for Visual Arts (CVA) on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

He said the computer held in the office that was petrol-bombed belonged to a lecturer and contained film-editing and production programs used by students, as well as the lecturer’s personal information and work. However, it did not contain students’ work.

The office also contained back-up discs with former students’ work, as well as cameras and other computers that were exposed to heat and smoke. These are yet to be tested to assess possible damage.

“As a precaution, important student work/projects have been removed for safekeeping.

“Security has been bolstered around this building,” said Seshoka, adding that the criminal activity witnessed posed a danger to the stability and well-being of the university community.

“Whilst the university supports the cause of free education for the poor, the protesters are urged to cease with the violence, intimidation and disruptions and engage with society to find a solution to the current impasse.

“The university remains committed to completing the 2016 academic year.

Read more on:    #feesmustfall  |  pietermaritzburg  |  student protests

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