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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.


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Well-established root system important for sustainable production in semi-arid grasslands
2015-02-24

Plot layout where production and root studies were done
Photo: Supplied

The importance of a well-established root system for sustainable production in the semi-arid grasslands cannot be over-emphasised.

A study of Prof Hennie Snyman from the Department of Animal and Wildlife and Grassland Sciences at the University of the Free State is of the few studies in which soil-water instead of rainfall has been used to estimate above- and below-ground production of semi-arid grasslands. “In the past, plant ecological studies have concentrated largely on above-ground parts of the grassland ecosystem with less emphasis on root growth. This study is, therefore, one of the few done on root dynamics in drier areas,” said Prof Snyman.

The longevity of grass seeds in the soil seed bank is another aspect that is being investigated at present. This information could provide guidelines in grassland restoration.

“Understanding changes in the hydrological characteristics of grassland ecosystems with degradation is essential when making grassland management decisions in arid and semi-arid areas to ensure sustainable animal production. The impact of grassland degradation on productivity, root production, root/shoot ratios, and water-use efficiency has been quantified for the semi-arid grasslands over the last 35 years. Because of the great impact of sustainable management guidelines on land users, this study will be continuing for many years,” said Prof Snyman.

Water-use efficiency (WUE) is defined as the quantity of above- and/or below-ground plant produced over a given period of time per unit of water evapotranspired. Sampling is done from grassland artificially maintained in three different grassland conditions: good, moderate, and poor.

As much as 86, 89 and 94% of the roots for grasslands in good, moderate and poor conditions respectively occur at a depth of less than 300 mm. Root mass is strongly seasonal with the most active growth taking place during March and April. Root mass appears to be greater than above-ground production for these semi-arid areas, with an increase in roots in relation to above-ground production with grassland degradation. The mean monthly root/shoot ratios for grasslands in good, moderate, and poor conditions are 1.16, 1.11, and 1.37 respectively. Grassland degradation lowered above- and below-ground plant production significantly as well as water-use efficiency. The mean WUE (root production included) was 4.79, 3.54 and 2.47 kg ha -1 mm -1 for grasslands in good, moderate, and poor conditions respectively.

These water-use efficiency observations are among the few that also include root production in their calculations.

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