One of the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) most well-known former students has challenged his fellow alumni to join him in kicking off a rebuilding fund which aims to restore the main Auditorium on the Kingsway Campus to its former glory following an arson attack just under a month ago.
The fire-bombing in the early hours of May 16th destroyed the 1 000-seater auditorium, which has for decades been a focal point of the University’s academic and cultural life and has been the auditorium in which hundreds of thousands of students have graduated. Also destroyed were computer laboratories, including equipment used to conduct career assessment and guidance for students and prospective students, bringing the estimated damage to R100-million.
“It is unacceptable that misguided arsonists, who destroyed our varsity’s iconic auditorium in a moment of madness, should have the last say,” said the former student, Advocate Cassie Badenhorst SC. “While we fully expect the culprits to face the full force of the law for their evil deed, we should embrace the University’s call of #ujbethesolution. I pledge R 10 000 as seed money and invite my fellow alumni to join in this effort by contributing generously towards the restoration of facilities which are essential for UJ to continue its noble task of passing on skills and knowledge to future generations of South Africans.”
Adv Badenhorst said he was keen for as many former students of UJ and all of its forerunner institutions as possible to contribute generously to the rebuilding effort. Many had been empowered by their studies and could now afford to give something back in the interests of empowering generations of students to come, whether in their private capacities or as senior managers of companies.
UJ Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Ihron Rensburg welcomed Adv Badenhorst’s initiative, saying the University strongly supported the initiative and that the role of the University was not only to pass on vocational and professional expertise, but also ethical, community oriented, and solution driven attitudes. “As an alumnus of significant standing within our city and our country, Adv Badenhorst is setting a tremendous example to all of us by calling on the generations of former students we are extremely proud of to join hands and give something back to the university which helped set them on the road to success and prosperity,” he said.
The call to former students dovetails with the launch of an official University appeal to major local and international donors to assist in rebuilding the main Auditorium, as well as the rollout of UJ’s ethos of always seeking creative solutions to its challenges, which the University has dubbed #ujbethesolution.
“UJ holds a special place in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of our alumni – from Technikon Witwatersrand, Rand Afrikaans Universiteit, Vista University and since 2005 the University of Johannesburg,” said Prof Rensburg. “What is wonderful is that this privately initiated appeal will catalyse our fundraising drives with the major private sector donors, foundations and the public sector in South Africa and internationally.”
Both Prof Rensburg and Adv Badenhorst emphasised that rebuilding the Auditorium does not absolve the perpetrators of their criminal responsibility for a callous act of destruction to the detriment of students and staff. The University remained determined that, together with law enforcement and prosecuting authorities, the perpetrators will be brought to book.