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UJ beefs up security after lecture hall torched

UJ officials say that additional security is necessary as it is identifying increasing threats.

Private security agents working for the University of Johannesburg take position as they shut the gates of the campus during clashes with rioting students, on September 28, 2016. Pciture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The University of Johannesburg (UJ) says it has no choice but to take the necessary precautions to secure campuses, following recent #FeesMustFall protests.

The university has been accused of using military-like strategies such as the outsourcing of private security to respond to protesting students who are calling for free higher education.

But following a fire at a lecture hall yesterday, officials say additional security is necessary, as the university attempts to resume with its academic programme.

The university's Kaamini Reddy says heightened security is necessary at this time when the university is identifying increasing threats.

"With the threat of petrol bombs and those kind of things security is heightened and one has to understand that we've got to take all precautions necessary."

Yesterday, a lecture hall was set alight at the university's Bunting Road campus which saw protests this week.

One first year student says while she did join this week's demonstrations, she hopes the academic programme won't face any more serious disruptions.

"We just want to write and complete this but it's all bad right now."

But student leaders say what they are calling for is a meeting with management to clearly discuss their grievances.

MEASURES IN PLACE TO ACHIEVE SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS

Meanwhile, the Presidency says measures are in place to achieve sustainable solutions to the current education crisis.

President Jacob Zuma says there are strategies in place to work toward making the education system more accessible, and short term solutions like paying for the so-called missing middle have been introduced.

Zuma has called for students to also respect law enforcement authorities on campuses.

Spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga says the president met with the security cluster this afternoon to discuss containing the violence on campus.

"They are supposed to realise that it's a delicate balance that we are working with; because on the one hand you have students' right to protest, and the state can't prevent students from protesting, while on the other side we have to make sure that we don't allow the destruction of property and the threatened violence."

At the same time, Wits University's vice-chancellor Adam Habib said if universities do not open within the next few weeks, it may result in some students not being able to register next year.

At least 10 universities have been shut down in the wake of fees must fall demonstrations nationwide.

Habib is warning that some faculties are reaching a point of no return.

"If nobody graduates this year, then nobody can come in next year because the system is premised on some people leaving and new people coming in.

"It will create a massive crash in the system; and my fear is that the people who are messing around with the system, have no idea what they are playing around with."

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