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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

State of our campuses: UFS Qwaqwa Campus temporarily closed until 18 April 2017
2017-04-03

The senior leadership of the University of the Free State (UFS) has decided to close the Qwaqwa Campus on Tuesday 28 March 2017 due to student protests regarding provisional registrations. Academic activities will resume on 18 April 2017. 
 
The protests were preceded by a meeting of the campus management with the Student Representative Council (SRC) on 22 March 2017 to discuss issues pertaining to students who are provisionally registered – especially those students who are provisionally registered and awaiting the outcome of their appeals to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
 
On 27 March 2017, the SRC handed a memorandum to the campus management, requesting assistance in cases that are on appeal with NSFAS. The students also demanded extension of the provisional registration deadline of 31 March 2017, and that a fundraising plan should be implemented for financially needy students. The campus management made a commitment to respond within the deadline stipulated in the memorandum.
 
After the meeting, violence erupted when a group of students started intimidating students, barricading the entrance to the campus, and damaging university property. An interdict was served by the Sheriff later the same afternoon and additional security was deployed. On 28 March 2017, the violent protests and barricades spilled onto the provincial road to Phuthaditjhaba and several cars were damaged. This led to the arrest of a number of students by members of the South African Police Service for the contravention of the High Court order and for public violence. The students have since been released.
 
Due to the imminent threat to the safety of staff and students on the campus, the senior leadership decided on 28 March 2017 to evacuate the residences and to close the campus temporarily until 18 April 2017.
             
“It is unfortunate that the students resorted to violence without waiting for the campus management’s response to the memorandum of 27 March 2017. What makes the situation difficult is the fact that students on provisional registration who are waiting for the outcome of their NSFAS appeals, are dealing directly with NSFAS. This makes it difficult for the university to intervene,” says Mr Teboho Manchu, acting Principal of the Qwaqwa Campus.
 
The senior leadership of the UFS is aware of the video clip on social media this week, where a student is allegedly beaten by security guards on the Qwaqwa Campus. The senior leadership condemns this deplorable incident. An investigation is underway to determine the nature and cause of the incident. Appropriate steps will be taken once the outcome of the investigation is available.

Released by:
Lacea Loader (Director: Communication and Brand Management)
Telephone: +27 51 401 2584 | +27 83 645 2454
Email: news@ufs.ac.za | loaderl@ufs.ac.za
Fax: +27 51 444 6393


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