PHOTO_UJ_071115_0 Seventeen student activists suspended from the University of Johannesburg believe they have been unfairly targeted. They are accused of burning down the university’s auditorium in May, causing damages estimated at over R100-million. The students remain suspended until their disciplinary hearings take place. “There were 17 students identified. Seven of the students were charged with conspiracy and execution of burning down the auditorium, and the other ten were conspiracy to burn down the auditorium which was basically assisting and planning in that act,” said UJ spokesperson, Kaamini Reddy. “ I don’t know what the merits of the case are, I haven’t seen the university’s evidence yet. It will be interesting to see if they have any evidence yet, or whether they placing these charges relying solely on protest rhetoric, which could amount to anything,” said lawyer, Tracey Lomex. Mongezi Ntanga is representing four female students among the group of 17. He believes their suspension is unlawful, unreasonable and unfair. “I was not satisfied that there was a justification for the students to be suspended. In their letter there were none of the reasons set out in the policy that the students should be suspended. "They are not allowed to write tests that will credit them for the end of the year exams. So basically they are highly prejudiced,” Ntanga said. The students, many of them in final year or post graduate, have been banned from setting foot on campus grounds since the 4th of August. They're denying the charges against them, saying it's a plot by the university to purge activists. The students further accuse the university of intimidation, and physical assault by private security and police. “There’ve been a legal team, there’ve been the police, there’ve been the hawks, HR, and everybody has been involved in this in order to apply fairness. This was not just starting a fire in a dustbin. "This was a fire where the damage is worth R100-million. So now in terms of UJ finding funding, we could have used that funding to make access to other students,” Reddy said. A date for the disciplinary hearings has not yet been set. SOURCE: eNCA