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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

South Africa praised for dealing with its history
2012-07-12

“I listened to an incredible conversation on how South Africans can talk about the past. We failed to do that in the US. We cannot move on because we failed to name the ghosts in our past. I am honouring what South Africa is doing.”

These are the words of a staff delegate from a university in the USA in a case study at the Global Leadership Summit led by Prof. André Keet, Director of the International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Students and academics from universities in the USA, Belgium, the Netherlands and Japan are attending a Global Leadership Summit with the theme “Transcending Boundaries in Global Change Leadership” at the UFS.

In the case study, symbols on the Bloemfontein Campus such as the MT Steyn Statue, Justitia symbol of justice at the building of the Faculty of Law, the artwork Van hier tot daar, and the Women’s Memorial were presented to the audience and the question was asked if they had to be removed or if they had to remain.

Students overwhelmingly felt that symbols of the past had to remain. Here are some of the comments:

  • “Without our past we would not be here today. Without the past, we would not know why we are here or where we are going.”
  • “It is important for students that it remains on campus, as a reminder that history must not repeat itself.”
  • “There is room for new symbols. We must look back but must also look at the future.”
  • “We must resolve the problems of the past and move on.”
  • “We must remember that we cannot go back there again. We must not take away part of other people’s history.”
  • “Symbols must be contextualised.”
  •  “Don’t look in the rear mirror, but through the windscreen where you are going. The windscreen is far bigger.”

One student said the statute of MT Steyn filled him with anger.

Prof. Keet said the act of running away from the ghosts of the past was a way to keep those ghosts alive. The past cannot be dealt with, only visited. The ghosts connect people with the past and allow the past to be present in the now.
 

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