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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

Forgive and forget? Or remember and retaliate?
2015-10-08

Cover of the novel Kamphoer

Fact and fiction came together at the Bloemfontein Campus recently to discuss the traumatic repercussions of the South African War. The event forms part of a three-year project – headed by Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela (University of the Free State Trauma, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation Studies) – which investigates transgenerational trauma in the aftermath of the South African War.

The discussion explored the theme, ‘Working through the Past: Reflections on the novel Kamphoer’.

Together, Emeritus Prof Chris van der Merwe (University of Cape Town) and the author of the novel, Dr Francois Smith (University of the Free State, Department Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French), engaged in a thought-provoking, insightful conversation, tracing themes of trauma and issues of forgiveness presented in Kamphoer. Prof Van der Merwe and Dr Smith demonstrated how both fiction and historical fact can inform our present, and guide us into the future.

Emeritus Prof Chris van der Merwe and Dr Francois Smith
discuss the novel Kamphoer and how the book relates to
current issues of transgenerational trauma.

“On a societal level,” Prof Van der Merwe said, “we need to work through trauma by putting it into words, and putting it into a narrative.” When it comes to historical trauma, should we forgive and forget, though? Or rather remember and retaliate? Neither, proposed Prof Van der Merwe. “What I want to plead for is the difficult challenge: remember and forgive.” But Prof Van der Merwe also pointed out that, although forgiveness blesses both the giver and receiver, it is an ongoing process.

Dr Smith agreed wholeheartedly. “One of the discoveries of my book is that forgiving is a continuous process. It’s not something that gets completed at a particular stage in your life. By the same token, you can’t say that you are ever able to leave the past behind.” These issues of trauma, forgiveness, the past versus the present, remembering and forgetting are all integral questions confronting the main character of the novel, Susan Nel .

They are also questions we, as a nation, are currently confronted with, too.

“At this moment in our society,” Prof Van der Merwe said, “we have enough killers. We have a greater need now for caring nurturers.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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