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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 lecturer serves on National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board
2015-02-13

Dr Karin Ehlers

Dr Karin Ehlers, lecturer in the Department of Genetics at the University of the Free State, was elected by the Minister of Police, Mr Nkosinathi Nhleko, to serve on the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board which will, among others, monitor the implementation of the provisions of the DNA Act.

Previously, when DNA evidence was collected at a crime scene, it was analysed only when requested by the prosecutor or investigator when they had found a suspect and needed confirmation. With the new DNA Act, all samples collected from violent crimes must be analysed. The profiles will be compared with a convicted offender database to see if some of the unsolved cases can be linked to these perpetrators. The reason for this is that many of these offenders are repeat offenders, and this process will increase the chances of solving cases successfully.

Serving on the Board, Dr Ehlers will also have the opportunity to contribute to proposals on:
- the improvement of practices regarding the overall operations of the National Forensic DNA Database (NFDD),
- the ethical, legal, and social implications of the use of forensic DNA profiles, and
- the training and the development of criteria for the use of familial searches.

Board members will also receive and assess complaints about alleged violations relating to the abuse of DNA samples and forensic DNA profiles and/or security breaches, and will report to complainants in respect thereof.

In 2014, when all citizens in South Africa were invited to apply for a position on the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board, Dr Ehlers submitted her application with a motivation on how she could contribute to the function of the Board. She is one of ten persons who were appointed to serve on the Board. “The reason I was successful was due to my involvement in the development of the UFS Forensic Sciences Programme,” Dr Ehlers said.

The capacity of the country was one of the challenges that had to be overcome for this Act to take effect. ”The UFS was able to address this problem, implementing degrees in Forensic Genetics and Forensic Sciences. With these programmes we made a real difference in the fight against crime. It is a real privilege to form part of this project,” said Dr Ehlers.

Dr Karin Ehlers serves on National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board (read the full story)

 

For more information or enquiries contact news@ufs.ac.za

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