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S.African university hall torched in latest campus attack

Published on 16/05/2016

South African university authorities said Monday that the firebombing of an auditorium in Johannesburg was part of an "organised set of attacks" targeting educational institutions.

The overnight arson attack at the University of Johannesburg caused about 100 million rand ($640,000) damage, destroying an auditorium, computer laboratories and equipment.

No arrests have yet been made over the attack, which follows months of sporadic violence, protests and clashes at universities around South Africa.

A statement from the university said arsonists had “fire bombed” the 1,000-seater auditorium as well as computer laboratories full of equipment.

“This is just the latest in a set of criminal acts directed at our country’s basic and higher education institutions,” Vice-Chancellor Ihron Rensburg said.

“We are calling on the police, the intelligence services and the judiciary to re-double their efforts in getting to the bottom of this organised set of attacks.”

South African universities were rocked last year by violent student protests over tuition fees, with many campuses temporarily shut down.

The protests by students, many of them so-called “born frees” who grew up after apartheid, forced the government to abandon planned tuition fee hikes.

Violence has also erupted at student demonstrations this year, with buildings in February torched at the North West University’s Mafikeng campus.

Other campus unrest has focused on allegations of racism and a dispute over the use of the Afrikaans language.

In recent weeks, teaching has been suspended in the Vuwani district of the northern province of Limpopo after about 20 schools were burnt down by local residents.

The community was demonstrating over a change in municipal boundaries.