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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 researcher fills void in South African policing history
2017-01-02

Description: Dr Cornelis Muller Tags: Dr Cornelis Muller 

Currently a Postdoctoral fellow in the International
Studies Group, Dr Cornelis Muller’s PhD thesis explores
late nineteenth century South African policing on the
Witwatersrand.
Photo: Rulanzen Martin

“I used policing on the Witwatersrand as a lens through which to examine aspects relating to state formation within the South African Republic.”

This is how Dr Cornelis Muller, a postdoctoral fellow in the International Studies Group at the University of the Free State (UFS), described his PhD thesis called Policing the Witwatersrand: A history of the South African Republic Police, 1886-1899. The thesis fills an empirical void in the history of settler colonial policing in South Africa.

His research was also featured in the South African Historical Journal, which is published by Routledge. Dr Muller received his PhD from the UFS during the 2016 Winter Graduation ceremonies. He received a scholarship from the university to conduct his three-year research.

Relationship between police and state examined

The study presents itself as an institutional biography in which the relationship between the South African Republic Police (known as the Zarps), the state, and broader society are examined. The period under investigation was a time when political, economic, and social complexities on the Witwatersrand created tension between South Africa and Great Britain.

An important theme throughout the thesis is the relationship between the police, the mining industry, and the so-called Uitlander community. Crime was also an important contributing factor to the complex relationship that developed between the Zarps and the policed in Johannesburg’s formative years.

“Johannesburg was a town under siege by a variety of crimes which ranged from vagrancy, drunkenness, gambling, and prostitution to robbery, murder, and assault,” said Dr Muller.

Archives in South Africa and Great Britain consulted
“My thesis follows a chronological approach in which various themes accounting for the development of the police on the Witwatersrand are highlighted.” Framed within the bureaucratic and administrative functioning of the Zarps, he examined aspects relating to crime, crisis, and conflict between the police and society. The thesis also details the relationship between the police and Johannesburg’s black community.

As with any historical research, it comprised internal and external source criticism and content analyses of a wide range of archival records.

Dr Muller had the opportunity to visit several archives and libraries in South Africa and Great Britain. “Some of the more important archival collections were assessed at the National Archives in Pretoria.” These included the Archive of the State Attorney and the Archive of the Magisterial District of Johannesburg.

“My study thus adds to scholarship that seeks to provide a more nuanced understanding of the South African Republic’s administrative functioning and internal politics in the late nineteenth century,” concluded Dr Muller.

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