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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

Prof. Iain Benson delivers inaugural lecture in UFS's Faculty of Law
2010-10-27

Prof. Shaun de Freitas (left) of the Faculty of Law at the UFS and Prof. Iain Benson.

Prof. Iain T. Benson delivered his inaugural address as Professor Extraordinary in the Department of Constitutional Law and Philosophy of Law in the Faculty of Law at University of the Free State (UFS) faculty last week.

Originally hailing from Canada and currently residing with his family in France, Prof. Benson is an academic with a wealth of experience and expertise in the field of law, especially with regard to the right of conscience and religion. His achievements number many, including being a Senior Associate Counsel at one of Canada’s leading law firms, Miller Thompson LLP; and serving on the Founding Board of the Global Centre for Pluralism. 

Apart from his work on leading cases in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Prof. Benson also has strong ties with the law in South Africa. He is part of the Continuity Committee that is responsible for the major undertaking of drawing up the South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms in cooperation with all the major religions in South Africa which, when completed, will be the first use of Section 234 of the South African Constitution.

The title of the inaugural lecture was Living together with Disagreements and the Limits of the Law, which tackled various conscientious and topical issues regarding the complex relationships between the law and religions. Starting off the lecture, Prof. Benson recalled that living together with disagreement is a necessary achievement in free and democratic societies and that differences of belief and opinion should not be resolved by force acceptance of a “one-size fits all” model. Mentioning religion and same-sex marriages, Prof. Benson held these up as issues which reasonable people may disagree on and should hence be respected by the public sphere that is girded round by the law. 

Quoting Sophocles’ Antigone, Prof. Benson noted that tensions between the so-called divine and imminent or state laws as in a non-theocratic state have always been with us. He stressed the importance of a wide respect by the law for civic associations in addition to but particularly in relation to religion which guides citizens views about wrong and right beyond matters that are regulated by law.
 

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