Wits arson: Books damaged, Habib kicked out of ‘Mcebo’s funeral’

Wits University vice-chancellor Adam Habib was forced to leave the peace accord meeting at Holy Trinity Church. Picture: Leon Sadiki/City Press
Wits University vice-chancellor Adam Habib was forced to leave the peace accord meeting at Holy Trinity Church. Picture: Leon Sadiki/City Press

About 100 books were damaged after a fire was started in the Wartenweiler Library at the University of Witwatersrand yesterday afternoon.

The fire blazed in the last aisle on the second floor of the library and a high-level investigation is under way by Wits security and the police.

No arrests in connection with the arson have been made.

The university said the fire was started with an accelerant or flammable substance, which may have been hidden in a bag.

Protests continued on campus despite the university having said that the academic programme would continue today.

Vice chancellor kicked out

Efforts to quell the mounting tensions on campus saw a peace accord being held at the Holy Trinity Church yesterday.

The executive management team was invited to the accord hosted by the academic staff association of Wits University, church leaders and others, but Wits vice-chancellor and principal, Adam Habib, was told to leave.

“We are disappointed that people felt that we should exit the peace meeting even after we had been invited to attend it,” said Habib.

Student leader Vuyani Pambo said when he walked into the church it felt like it was the funeral of incarcerated leader Mcebo Dlamini, who had been denied bail in court prior to the peace accord.

“It felt like it was Mcebo’s funeral and then suddenly Habib wanted to stand before us and speak,” Pambo said.

Students moved the accord to the Great Hall.

“He cancelled the general assembly [October 7] at the last minute when we wanted to engage with him. Habib, however, is not our focus. He doesn’t have the money [for free education],” he added.

The only time general assemblies were called was when there were issues of national importance on which Wits wanted to stamp its position, with the hopes of helping to address and assist the country.

“We remain committed to working with students and student leaders in trying to find solutions to these issues, many of which can only be resolved at the national level. We recognise that passions are inflamed and that we should not take the reactions of some student leaders personally,” Habib said.

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