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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

UFS research sheds light on service delivery protests in South Africa
2015-01-23

UFS research sheds light on service delivery protests in South Africa

Service delivery protests in the country have peaked during 2014, with 176 major service delivery protests staged against local government across South Africa.

A study by the University of the Free State (UFS) found that many of these protests are led by individuals who previously held key positions within the ANC and prominent community leaders. Many of these protests involved violence, and the destruction had a devastating impact on the communities involved.

This study was done by Dr Sethulego Matebesi, researcher and senior lecturer at the UFS. He focused his research on the dynamics of service delivery protests in South Africa.

Service delivery protests refer to the collective taken by a group of community members which are directed against a local municipality over poor or inadequate provision of basic services, and a wider spectrum of concerns including, for example, housing, infrastructural developments, and corruption.

These protests increased substantially from about 10 in 2004 to 111 in 2010, reaching unprecedented levels with 176 during 2014.

The causes of these protests are divided into three broad categories: systemic (maladministration, fraud, nepotism and corruption); structural (healthcare, poverty, unemployment and land issues); and governance (limited opportunities for civic participation, lack of accountability, weak leadership and the erosion of public confidence in leadership).

In his research, Dr Matebesi observed and studied protests in the Free State, Northern Cape and the North-West since 2008. He found that these protests can be divided into two groups, each with its own characteristics.

“On the one side you have highly fragmented residents’ groups that often use intimidation and violence in predominantly black communities. On the other side, there are highly structured ratepayers’ associations that primarily uses the withholding of municipal rates and taxes in predominantly white communities.”

 

Who are the typical protesters?

Dr Matebesi’s study results show that in most instances, protests in black areas are led by individuals who previously held key positions within the ANC - prominent community leaders. Generally, though, protests are supported by predominantly unemployed, young residents.

“However, judging by election results immediately after protests, the study revealed that the ANC is not losing votes over such actions.”

The study found that in the case of the structured ratepayers’ associations, the groups are led by different segments of the community, including professionals such as attorneys, accountants and even former municipal managers.

Dr Matebesi says that although many protests in black communities often turned out violent, protest leaders stated that they never planned to embark on violent protests.

“They claimed that is was often attitude (towards the protesters), reaction of the police and the lack of government’s interest in their grievances that sparked violence.”

Totally different to this is the form of peaceful protests that involves sanctioning. This requires restraint and coordination, which only a highly structured group can provide.

“The study demonstrates that the effects of service delivery protests have been tangible and visible in South Africa, with almost daily reports of violent confrontations with police, extensive damage to property, looting of businesses, and at times, the injuring or even killing of civilians. With the increase of violence, the space for building trust between the state and civil society is decreasing.”

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