UKZN film lab fire bombed

2016-10-12 11:23
A room in the Centre for Visual Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Pietermaritzburg campus that was left gutted after a suspected arson attack during violent #FeesMustFall protests on Monday.

A room in the Centre for Visual Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Pietermaritzburg campus that was left gutted after a suspected arson attack during violent #FeesMustFall protests on Monday. (Ian Carbutt)

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While the damage at a torched UKZN film lab may exceed half a million rand, the potential loss of research stored on a computer there remains a huge concern.

A lecturer’s office at the lab, which is part of the Centre for Visual Arts (CVA) at the university’s Pietermaritzburg campus, was targeted in an arson attack on Monday evening when student protests under the #FeesMustFall banner again became violent.

It is believed students hurled petrol bombs through the windows of the building and into an office where camera and computer equipment is stored.

Digital cameras, tripods and a computer system were among some of the equipment in the room when the fire began.

Although the costs of the damages are yet to be properly determined, it is believed they may soar close to R500 000. However, the cost in monetary terms is not what academics and students are most concerned about.

A staff member said the main computer, which is valued at over R100 000, contains the stored work of undergraduate and postgraduate students, some of whom have been working on film projects for more than a year.

The device also contains expensive editing programs. “Some staff I know literally had to beg for an upgrade of our equipment two years ago and they waited a long time for it. Now it may have been damaged in minutes,” the staff member said.

“Besides the obvious costs to the university, we are trying to recover content stored on the computer.

“Some postgraduate students have been working on projects for years and imagine if it has all been wiped out.”

A postgraduate film student described her experience of working in the building during ongoing protests at the university.

Afraid to be identified, the student said the atmosphere is constantly “tremendously intimidating and frightening”.

“When I am working alone in the building, I fear for my life and the safety of the building. I feel like the protesters are too violent and are taking it too far,” she said.

“Considering that I may have lost work and equipment may have been damaged, all the money my parents have paid has gone to waste if I am unable to graduate this year.”

The student said she cannot afford more delays in the academic calendar.

“Now we will have to relocate and reconnect the equipment, which may take a week. That will be disastrous. We are 25% of the way through our film module’s syllabus this semester and I have not been able to start filming for my final submission yet,” she said.

Protests flared up again at the Pietermaritzburg campus on Monday afternoon when a mob of about 150 students overturned a campus vehicle outside the Science blocks.

The group dispersed when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, but instead of returning to a state of calm, the students broke into smaller gangs and clashed with police at various points on the campus.

The onslaught continued late into the evening, with police firing tear gas into the Malherbe residence where students had congregated.

A GROUP of 20 to 30 students gathered at William O’Brien residence on  just before noon, all wearing full balaclavas. They are believed to have started running towards the large contingent of police who had gathered at the library lawns on the main campus.

They ran straight past the police and went out the exit at the chemistry building.

They then went into Golf Road and into the Commerce Block where they tried to disrupt lectures.

Officers working for the Mi7 Security Intelligence company then arrested two suspects, one of whom is believed to be a protest ringleader.

Tensions were expected to be high last night following the arrest of the ringleader.

It was reported that the group of students who marched to the Pietermaritzburg campus from court yesterday dispersed after police ordered them to do so. — Witness Reporter.

Read more on:    ukzn  |  #feesmustfall  |  pietermaritzburg  |  student protests

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