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07 May 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Noko Masalesa
Noko Masalesa, Director of Protection Services, in conversation with students and stakeholders to plan a safe way forward.

Safety and security are human rights that constitute social justice. At the centre of the agenda at the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Social Justice Week held on the Bloemfontein Campus from 17-22 April 2019 were discussions about off-campus safety. Stakeholders agreed on an upgrade to security measures in order to ensure the success and wellbeing of the student population.

A call to students

Prof John Mubangizi, Dean of the Faculty of Law, in his capacity as representative of the UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, expressed his view on institutions of higher learning no longer functioning as ivory towers. “For any initiative to succeed, collaboration is necessary between key roleplayers,” he said.

He aptly pointed out that: “We cannot underscore the importance of safety and security, not only for the university but also for the communities around us. What the university does benefits the community and vice versa. I pledge the university’s commitment to play a leading part to ensure that the collaboration works,” said Prof Mubangizi.

Beefing up security: Who is involved?

In view of the collaborative effort Prof Mubangizi alluded to, the engagement was twofold. First was the roundtable discussion facilitated by Protection Services which then escalated into a public dialogue where students had the opportunity to interact with external delegates.

The South African Police Services, Community Police Forum, Private Security, Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, Provincial Commissioner, and Deputy Minister of Police were well represented in this critical conversation. Internally, members of Protection Services, Housing and Residence Affairs, Student Affairs, Institute for Social Justice and Reconciliation, Student Representative Council, and the Department of Criminology heard the plight of off-campus safety faced by students.

Changes in the horizon

The discussions culminated with recommendations which will see the future of student safety take a different direction. According to Skhululekile Luwaca, former SRC president, these include “the municipality’s commitment to immediately address issues such as street lights and enforcing by-laws, ensuring an integrated accreditation system, and drafting a policy for off-campus accommodation, running more crime awareness campaigns, and giving police patrols more visibility.”

In addition to resolving to set up a student safety forum with all the stakeholders, the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has invited the UFS to join Reclaim the City – a safety forum where practical solutions to crime are devised and implemented on a weekly basis.


News Archive

UFS’s Unit for Children’s Rights instrumental in helping human trafficked victim
2010-03-29

Adv. Beatri Kruger.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs
“Wheeling and dealing is part of our daily life. But what if the ‘product’ bought or sold is not a spanner or a cell phone, but a living human being? Disturbing news came to the fore... apart from other places in the country, and for that matter all over the world, it was discovered that people are treated like commodities here in Bloemfontein as well,” said Adv. Beatri Kruger from the Unit for Children’s Rights at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Adv. Kruger was instrumental in completing and availing the first comprehensive Research Report on Human Trafficking in South Africa to the public on 23 March 2010. As a member of the Reference Group advising on interim research reports on human trafficking, she contributed to the report. The report proves to be an extremely valuable tool for, among others, government departments and non-governmental organisations that use it as a guideline in planning interventions to combat human trafficking.

The Unit for Children’s Rights is also one of the founding members of the Free State Human Trafficking Forum (FHF). To react on and fight the disturbing reality of human trafficking more efficiently, a number of concerned role players such as Child Welfare and other non-governmental organisations, police officials, prosecutors, social workers, health practitioners, private businesses, churches and community organisations joined forces and formed the FHF. The Unit for Children’s Rights hosts monthly meetings at the UFS to facilitate the coordination of this multi-disciplinary counter-trafficking team.

Adv. Kruger is very excited about some of the successes of the FHF; such as the story of Soma (not her real name). This Indian woman was recruited in India by an Indian couple who are staying in South Africa, by promising her a good job in South Africa. However, instead of finding the promised job, Soma was extensively exploited for labour purposes. With the help of a “good Samaritan” she managed to escape from the perpetrators and fled to the police. Soma was removed to ensure her safety and accommodated in a safe place in Bloemfontein. Counselling and other services were rendered to her by an organisation which is also a member of the FHF. One of the challenges facing Soma and the service providers was that Soma speaks a foreign dialect and for weeks a trusted interpreter could not be found.

This obstacle rendered communication with her to the bare minimum. The perpetrators were arrested but unfortunately the new comprehensive counter-trafficking law is not in force yet. Therefore the perpetrators could only be convicted of some offences in the Immigration Act. However, due to good police investigation followed by shrewd consultations, the perpetrators agreed to pay for the victim’s return flight to India as well as for the flight ticket of the investigating officer to escort her to safety. The Unit for Children’s Rights did networking with Ms Maria Nikolovska of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), who agreed to assist in the safe reintegration of Soma in India. Soma is now on her way back home.

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