Several fires started on Wits campus overnight

Adam Wakefield, News24

Johannesburg - Several fires started "deliberately and simultaneously" on the University of the Witwatersrand's Braamfontein campus were extinguished early on Wednesday morning, Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib said.

Campus control managed to extinguish the fires with the help of others, with no one injured, Habib said in a statement.

"We strongly condemn these cowardly acts of violence and vandalism. Any perpetrator caught undertaking these acts will be arrested and charged."

He said the safety and security of the university's staff and students continued to be of the utmost importance.

Campus reopening

The university was boosting security on campus to ensure there would be no further incidents of violence when it reopened on Wednesday morning.

Police would also be on standby.

Habib called on anyone with information on the fires to contact campus control. Suspicious behaviour should also be reported.

"The University will open today, Wednesday, 28 October 2015, a call also supported by the Wits SRC," Habib said.

"We will keep you updated throughout the day."

The university was reopening after being closed since last week Monday following student protests against a proposed 10.5% fee increase for 2016, which began the week before.

The protests at Wits spread to campuses across South Africa, as students protested about rising fees at their various institutions.

Their protests culminated in President Jacob Zuma announcing on Friday that university fee increases would be frozen for 2016. The major question since Zuma's announcement was how government intended on paying for the projected R2.6 billion rand shortfall due to fees being frozen.

Agreement with SRC

Wits was able to open on Wednesday following an agreement between management and the student representative council, which has been leading the protests, on Monday.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the university said they expected all members of the university community to respect the institution and to act within its rules.

"The past few days have been trying for all, and we appreciate your assistance in reaching this point of reopening," Wits said.

"We look forward to your continued support in getting the academic programme back on track and enabling our students to write their examinations."