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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

Head of SA Witness Protection Programme pays UFS a visit
2010-05-04

 
Receiving the Head of the South African Witness Protection Programme are, in front: Prof. Hennie Oosthuizen, Head of the Department of Criminal and Medical Law at the UFS; back: Adv. Beatri Kruger from the UFS Unit for Children’s Rights, Ms Lani Opperman, Member of the Free State Human Trafficking Forum (FHF), Adv. John Welch, Head of the Witness Protection Programme in South Africa; and Lene van Zyl, a LLM student at the UFS who is doing her thesis on human trafficking in body parts.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs


Recently Adv. Beatri Kruger from the Unit for Children’s Rights in the Faculty of Law at the University of the Free State (UFS) invited Adv. John Welch, Head of the Witness Protection Programme in South Africa, to address the Free State Human Trafficking Forum (FHF) on the safe-keeping of victims who are witnesses against human traffickers.

Human trafficking is prevalent in the Free State, especially in Bloemfontein. The Unit for Children’s Rights is one of the founding members of the FHF that was established to take action against and fight the disturbing reality of human trafficking more efficiently.

According to Adv. Kruger the FHF identified the problem of trafficked witnesses being threatened by human trafficker syndicates.

Adv. Welch made some suggestions with regard to the safe-keeping of trafficked victims. He also, with some of the forum members, paid a visit to the areas in Bloemfontein where human trafficking is prevalent as well as to the local shelter for trafficked victims.

Adv. Welch undertook to join forces with the FHF in assisting trafficked victims and the local Witness Protection Programme Office is now a member of the forum.

Since December 2009 members of the FHF managed to disrupt the work of the human trafficking syndicates. “The traffickers have not stopped this inhumane practice but there are indications that they have moved to other buildings in the inner city and even to houses in the suburbs. It was reported to the forum that approximately 27 males suspected of being involved in human trafficking had been arrested, and since they are illegal in the country, they were deported to their countries of origin,” said Adv. Kruger.

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