30 September 2021 | Story ANDRÉ DAMONS | Photo ANDRÉ DAMONS
Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Free State (UFS), addressed the media about the crime and violence affecting students at the university and in South Africa.

Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS), says it is tragic that young lives who still had a future ahead of them and would have been able to contribute to building a better, safer South Africa, are lost because of crime and violence. 

On Wednesday (29 September 2021), Prof Petersen addressed the media alongside Major General Arthur Adams, District Commissioner of the South African Police Service in charge of Mangaung Metro Policing, Jerry Thoka, President of the UFS Institutional Student Representative Council, Mr Temba Hlasho, Executive Director: Student Affairs, and Mr Noko Masalesa, Senior Director: Protection Services.

This comes after the death of two students from the University of the Free State (UFS) last week in Phuthaditjhaba. 

We have to work together

“We have to work together to see to what extent we can deal with the issue of crime and violence. We need a collective effort to tackle this evil that is destroying our communities and societies.” 

“To the families of the deceased students, words cannot bring them back, but we pray for strength during this very sad time. Enough is enough. Let’s work together to ensure that our communities, our streets, our campuses – especially off-campus – are safe and that children, students, parents, family, and friends can walk safely on our streets in South Africa,” said Prof Petersen. 

According to him, the management of the Qwaqwa Campus provided on-campus accommodation for the other students who stayed in the off-campus accommodation where the incident took place. The students are provided with meals and are encouraged to take up space in the campus residences.

“We can talk about underlying reasons for the crime and the violence, which include poverty, inequality, and unemployment. This is certainly not enough reason to hurt another human being or to murder someone. I would like to state in my capacity as Rector and Vice-Chancellor, and also on behalf of the institution, that enough is enough.” 

“Although much has been done to ensure the safety of students and staff on our campuses and on other campuses in the country, when students come on our campuses, they should feel safe and that they belong and can interact, but it is often the off-campus accommodation that remains a challenge. We collaborate with the police, we have accredited private accommodation, and also have private security companies that assist us to provide more oversight with respect to safety off campus.”

We need to defend the future of this country 

Maj. Gen. Adams said that collective efforts were of the utmost importance to the police, because they would fail dismally on their own. He welcomed the commitment of the UFS to pledge support in dealing with issues of mutual concern. 

“We need to jealously defend the future of this country, and the future is in the hands of young people. If we are failing today, we are actually saying that the future will be looking very bleak if we do not put all our efforts into ensuring that the safety of young people – be at university residences or in the country in general – is looked after.”
“We can’t bring the students back, but we can ensure that justice prevails. We want to make sure that these perpetrators are brought to book,” said Maj. Gen. Adams.

According to him, two suspects have been arrested for a similar incident in Qwaqwa, which might be linked to the killing of the two students. 

Faster response time, more patrols 

Thoka said this is an opportunity to relay a message from the students of the UFS, especially those residing in off-campus residences. “We appreciate that the UFS has contracted private security to patrol the off-campus areas and is trying its level best to provide safety.”

“We think that the services rendered by the private companies are not sufficient enough to ensure the safety of the number of students residing off-campus. We think more can be done, such as an increase in the capacity of private security doing patrols at off-campus accommodation,” said Thoka. 

According to him, improvement is possible regarding response time when students call for assistance. He also said there is a notable lack of police presence at off-campus accommodation on a continuing basis. 

“There is a lack of completion of these cases as far as investigations are concerned and as far as bringing justice to the families of the affected students. There are numerous cases of students not yet completed, investigations are still ongoing, and of course, we appreciate this. I think we need to ensure that cases of this nature are concluded, that justice is served, and that the perpetrators are sent a message so that they understand that there are consequences for such actions.”

A memorial service for the deceased students is taking place on Thursday (30 September 2021) between 11:00 and 13:00.  You are invited to join virtually by clicking on the following link: https://livestream.ufs.ac.za/


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