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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

Plant-strengthening agent a result of joint effort between UFS and German company
2015-07-27

Research over the past few years has showed that the agent applied mostly as a foliar spray subsequently leads to better seedlings as well as growth and yield enhancement of various crops.

The application of a plant-strengthening agent in the agricultural industry has, until recently, been largely ignored, says Dr Elmarie van der Watt of the Department of Soil, Crop, and Climate Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS). The agent was co-developed by researchers at the UFS and a German company.

The product is moving into new markets, such as China, Vietnam, the USA, and Australia.

ComCat® was the result of extensive research by the German company Agraforum AG. Commercialisation was limited initially to Europe, while research was expanded to other parts of the world, with the University of the Free State as the main research centre.  ComCat® is a unique, non-toxic plant strengthening agent derived from wild plants. It enhances plant growth and yield, as well as resistance against abiotic and biotic stress factors.

Dr Van der Watt says that, in nature, plants communicate and interact by means of allelochemicals (the inherent silent tool of self-protection among plants) and other phytochemicals (chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants), as part of their resistance mechanisms towards biotic and abiotic stress conditions.

Most wild-plant varieties are usually well-adapted to resist these stress factors. However, monoculture crops have lost this ability to a large extent. “Active compounds contained in extracts from wild plants applied to monoculture crops can potentially supply the signal for the latter to activate their dormant resistance mechanisms.” 

Research over the past few years has showed that the agent applied mostly as a foliar spray subsequently leads to better seedlings as well as growth and yield enhancement of various crops.  A major advantage is that, despite its enhancing effects on root development and yield, it does not induce unwanted early vegetative growth that could jeopardise the final yield, as happened in the past for nitrogen application at an early growth stage. 

Dr Van der Watt says, “Physiological data on the effect of the natural bio-stimulant product on photosynthesis, respiration, and resistance towards biotic stress conditions indicate that it can be regarded as a useful tool to manipulate agricultural crops. Research also showed that the field of application for this natural product is never-ending, and new applications are being investigated every day.”

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