South Africa 20.10.2016 12:21 pm

Wits library torched, books damaged

A fire was started in the last aisle on the second floor of the library.

A section of a library at the Witwatersrand University has been set alight, the institution said on Thursday.

“A fire was started in the last aisle on the second floor of the Wartenweiler Library yesterday [Wednesday] afternoon, damaging about 100 books,” said spokesperson Shirona Patel.

“Security has determined that the fire was started with a flammable substance, which may have been hidden in a bag found on the scene. The fire was extinguished quickly and a high level investigation is under way by Wits security and the police.”

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The library has been cordoned off by police.

Patel said Wits management would hold a meeting on whether to extend the 10pm curfew implemented last week, although it was met with resistance from students.

The curfew was temporarily extended to midnight on Wednesday, and management would decide whether that should be permanent, she said.

On Wednesday, students converged at the Solomon Mahlangu House on campus for a peace accord meeting to resolve the ongoing impasse with management.

They were addressed by public figures such as former public protector Thuli Madonsela and Jay Naidoo.

Madonsela assured them that their #FeesMustFall campaign was genuine but that they needed ways to change their strategy in order to achieve their goal.

Student protests that started a month ago continue unabated across the country’s universities as thousands abandoned classes, calling for free higher education.

This week, acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane said 567 people have been arrested during the protests for free education in 265 cases over the last eight months. The charges included public violence, intimidation and malicious damage to property.

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