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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

Fire as a management tool questionable in arid and semi-arid grassland areas
2015-03-24

Wild fire in the grassland
Photo: Supplied


The influence of fire on the ecosystem in the higher rainfall ‘‘sour’’ grassland areas of southern Africa has been well established. However, less information is available for arid and semi-arid ‘‘sweet’’ grassland areas, says Prof Hennie Snyman, Professor in the Department of Animal, Wildlife, and Grassland Sciences, about his research on the short-term impact of fire on the productivity of grasslands in semi-arid areas.

Sour and sweet grassland areas can be defined as receiving either higher or lower than approximately 600 mm of rainfall respectively. In quantifying the short-term impact of fire on the productivity of grasslands in semi-arid areas, a South African case study (experimental plot data) was investigated.

“Burned grassland can take at least two full growing seasons to recover in terms of above- and below-ground plant production and of water-use efficiency (WUE). The initial advantage in quality (crude protein) accompanying fire does not neutralise the reduction in half of the above-ground production and poor WUE occurring in the first season following the fire.

“The below-ground growth is more sensitive to burning than above-ground growth. Seasonal above-ground production loss to fire, which is a function of the amount and distribution of rainfall, can vary between 238 and 444 kg ha -1 for semi-arid grasslands. The importance of correct timing in the utilisation of burned semi-arid grassland, with respect to sustained high production, cannot be overemphasised,” said Prof Snyman.

In arid and semi-arid grassland areas, fire as a management tool is questionable if there is no specific purpose for it, as it can increase ecological and financial risk management in the short term.

Prof Snyman said: “More research is needed to quantify the impact of runaway fires on both productivity and soil properties, in terms of different seasonal climatic variations. The information to date may already serve as valuable guidelines regarding grassland productivity losses in semi-arid areas. These results can also provide a guideline in claims arising from unforeseen fires, in which thousands of rands can be involved, and which are often based on unscientific evidence.”

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

 

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