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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

There’s more to media freedom than the Secrecy Bill
2012-05-04

4 May 2012

 “Media freedom is a universal human right. It cannot be abolished, but it should be managed.” The freedom of the media is protected by numerous formal documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the South African Constitution, and is commemorated annually with the celebration of World Press Freedom Day.

 “As long as those in power have something to hide, media freedom will be under threat. This is a war that takes place on many fronts,” says Ms Willemien Marais, a journalism lecturer at the Department of Communication Science at the University of the Free State (UFS).

“On the one hand we have to take a stand against institutional threats such as the proposed Protection of State Information Bill. This is diametrically opposed to everything that media freedom and freedom of expression encapsulates.

“But on the other hand we also need to educate and transform our society. It is not only up to journalists to defend media freedom. Newspaper reports on the public hearings on this Bill earlier this year proved that ignorance concerning media freedom is a big threat. The lack of resistance against the Secrecy Bill from the general population clearly illustrates that people aren’t aware of what they are about to lose.”

 Ms Marais says the rise of social media and the accompanying awareness of individual freedom of expression have paved the way for more people to exercise this right. “The role of social media in the Arab Spring has been highlighted numerous times. The power of social media is undeniable – but alas, so is the lack of access to especially social media. We can only increase media literacy if we increase people’s access to the media – new and traditional.”

A high level of media literacy is also vital following last month’s recommendation by the Press Freedom Commission of a system of independent co-regulation for South Africa’s print media. This system proposes replacing government regulation with a panel consisting of representatives from the print industry as well as members of the general public. “It is abundantly clear that this system can only work if those members of the general public are media literate and understand the role of media freedom in protecting democracy.”

“The media is not a sentient being – it consists of and is run by people, and human beings are fallible. Protecting media freedom does not only mean fighting institutional threats. It also means increasing media literacy by educating people. And it means owning up to your mistakes, and correcting it.” 

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