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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

Lessons of The Spear
2012-08-16

Discussing weighty issues at the UFS were from left: Prof. Jonathan Jansen; Vice-Chancellor and Rector; Nic Dawes, Editor-in-Chief, Mail & Guardian; Max du Preez: Investigative journalist and political columnist; Ferial Haffajee: Editor, City Press; and Justice Malala: Political commentator and newspaper columnist.
Photo: Johan Roux
14 August 2012

What were South Africans left with after The Spear? More importantly, what did we learn from The Spear?

These were the issues discussed at a seminar, Beyond the Spear, on the controversial Brett Murray painting at the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) on Monday 13 August 2012.

The university hosted this seminar, Beyond the Spear, in conjunction with acclaimed journalists, to look deeper into the lessons that South Africans learnt from this painting and the reaction from the public and politicians following soon after it went on display at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg.

The four panellists, Mr Justice Malala (political analyst, journalist and host of the news show, The Justice Factor), Mr Nic Dawes (editor in chief of Mail & Guardian), Mr Max du Preez (investigative journalist and political columnist) and Ms Ferial Haffajee (editor of City Press), all presented their views and experiences on the public’s perceptions of this artwork.

In his opening remarks, Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector, said the purpose of the seminar was to help us make sense of what happened. Prof. Jansen also chaired this seminar.

“This being South Africa, there will be more ‘Spears’. More public crises will unfold that divide the nation and that will stir the emotions. We need to understand what happened so that we are better prepared to deal with the coming ‘Spears’.”

Issues on leadership, South Africa’s hurtful past and the freedom of expression were some of the topics raised by the panellists.

“This has taught us that South Africans – especially the older generation – still need to vent their anger… White South Africa must be patient and allow black citizens to shout at them,” said Mr Du Preez. He warned that this anger should serve a constructive purpose. In reaction to a question if Brett Murray did not disrespect Pres. Jacob Zuma’s dignity with his controversial painting, he said that this painting was “…rude and disrespectful.”

“It was meant to be. It was not honouring him.” He said that politicians will do anything, including messing with the country’s stability, to further their own interests. “From now on we need to be far more alert, far more cynical about our politicians.”

Mr Dawes shared his experience and said that the debates around The Spear were very painful considering where the nation has come from. He said the painting opened up painful pasts and difficult spaces. “It is up to the media to open up these difficult spaces.” He said the painting also brought up questions of how South Africans deal and live with pain. “South Africa must live with its past. The debate should now be how to preserve space for the country’s ghosts and how its citizens could get the resilience to deal with it.”

Ms Haffajee, who was caught in the crossfire between freedom of expression and human dignity and who refused to remove a picture of the painting from the City Press website, said that the media was viciously played by politicians.

“This had shown that achieving freedom took many lives, but it took very little to kill it.” She said The Spear is art that it is part of a rich cultural heritage of protest art.

Mr Malala said with the debates around The Spear painting, something died in South Africa. “The debate was taken away from us. We let politicians get to us.”

After the panellists delivered their presentations, Prof. Jansen led a discussion session between the audience and the panellists.

 

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