UFS student arrested for arson over blaze that caused R35m damage

A University of the Free State (UFS) student has been arrested for arson.

A University of the Free State (UFS) student has been arrested for arson.

Published Apr 6, 2022


CAPE TOWN - A University of the Free State (UFS) student has been arrested on charges of arson after a fire that gutted the clinic and computer laboratory was found to have been started intentionally.

The fire was allegedly started by disgruntled students who had not yet received funds from NSFAS due to them.

The university said the preliminary finding of the urgent investigation into the fire on the Qwaqwa Campus of UFS on the evening of Monday, April 4, indicated the two buildings were intentionally set alight.

UFS spokesperson, Lacea Loader, said: "This was established by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the university’s Protection Services (Tuesday) morning. Since the outbreak of the fire, one person – who is a registered student – has been arrested by SAPS, and a process is under way to identify more suspects.

"The UFS will institute the necessary disciplinary action against suspects who are registered students. Similarly, criminal charges will also be instituted. The buildings, which housed the clinic and a computer laboratory, were almost completely destroyed, with damage to both buildings estimated at R35 million."

The university management condemned criminal behaviour in the strongest terms.

UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, said: "The Qwaqwa Campus, as well as the entire university community, are shocked by this devastating and irresponsible act, especially after the campus experienced violent protest action this year, which significantly affected the academic programme."

The academic programme on the Qwaqwa Campus continues, mostly online for this week, and students will be informed by their faculties about the revised schedule, as well as arrangements regarding tests and assessments scheduled for this week on campus.

The campus remains open and the university's protection services is on high alert and monitoring the situation closely.

Loader added: "It is alleged students were unhappy about the payment of allowances they are due to receive from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) in April 2022. To alleviate this, the UFS has so far this year offered students allowances for food and books amounting to more than R71 million, while they are waiting for their NSFAS subsidies to be released."

Cape Times