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UJ lecture hall on fire

It’s being reported that two lecture auditoriums are on fire at the University of Johannesburg.

Firefighters seen at the University of Johannesburg’s Bunting Road campus where lecture halls have been set alight. Picture: Dineo Bendile/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Firefighters and police officials have gathered at the University of Johannesburg's (UJ) Bunting Road campus where lecture halls have been set alight.

Many students say they don't know who was responsible for the incident as they were in lectures when it happened.



Students have been protesting for free higher education but it's not yet clear if the fires at the lecture halls are part of the "Fees Must Fall" demonstrations.

Students say the smell of smoke forced them out of lectures on campus.



One student says she realised something was wrong when security guards told her not to enter lecture halls.

"The security guards were blocking the main entrance, so I made my way to the back entrance and that's when I saw the fire."

Many students were seen sitting outside, all speculating about what may have happened.

Officials are still at the scene, making sure the fire is out.



Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma is calling for calm and restraint at all universities across South Africa.

Zuma says he understands that people have the right to protest, but says this must be done peacefully.

Zuma adds government is working to find ways to support access to free education for all.

The president's spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga says, "President Zuma is seriously disturbed by the violence, and he has called for calm and restraints at all higher education institution campuses across the country."

ADDRESSING POLICE BRUTALITY

At the same time, students and staff at UJ have accused the institution of not knowing how to listen to differences of opinion and instead resorting to violence and intimidation.

Lecturers have called a briefing in Johannesburg today to express their unhappiness with attacks on protesting students and staff as well as journalists at UJ campuses.

Last night, students and members of the media were attacked and pepper sprayed, allegedly by private security officials at UJ's Doornfontein Campus.

UJ management has said it doesn't condone the guards' behaviour and will address the matter.

Lecturer Rubina Setlhare has called on management to address protests without violence.

"My plea is for our university management to please find more constructive ways of engaging with our students"

Lecturers say it's disheartening for them to see students attacked for no reason, simply because they're expressing a different opinion on fees to what the university is saying.

Students say they are still puzzled about last night's alleged attack by private security officers who are accused of striking a peaceful group.

They admit that while they did throw stones at the private guards, it was only done in self-defence.

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