It was the tragic murder of a student behind the Tshwane University of Technology’s Soshanguve campus that prompted student, Mitchel Moloto, to approach Police Minister Bheki Cele and request his assistance in urgently addressing student safety on campus.
“We came to the realisation as student leaders that our students who are living off and on campus are being victimised by community members, especially when they leave campus and head to their homes in the many passages around the university.
“They are being robbed of their cell phones and in instances when they don’t have valuables they are beaten up and sometimes raped,” said Moloto.
He spotted the Minister at the memorial service for Mam Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and took a chance. His efforts were rewarded on Friday when Minister Cele visited the campus to engage with students and launch a pilot campus safety programme.
The programme has an emphasis on gender-based violence. Minister Cele made reference to the murder of Zolile Khumalo who was killed by her ex-boyfriend at the Mangosuthu University of Technology in KwaZulu-Natal.
“We are trying to work closely with the campus to try and reduce these incidents. We were told about incidents that are quite unpalatable with regards to the safety of students, especially female students,” said Minister Cele, who was accompanied by the National Police Commissioner Major General Kehla Sitole.
Regarding the issue of students victimising their fellow students, the Police Minister said once they start engaging in criminal activity they cease to be viewed as students but rather as criminals and would be dealt with as criminals.
Major General Sitole said the campus safety plan would involve all stakeholders to ensure safety on campus as well as the surrounding communities.
“We are here to formally introduce a campus safety plan and this plan will be a practical action plan which will involve lecturers, students and police to stamp the authority of the state in this university.
“We will connect and interconnect all the policing framework structures. There are serious and clear environmental design factors impacting on the safety of students. Part and parcel of our work will be to clear those factors.
“The Minister spoke about taverns situated near the university and they are not in the acceptable proximity in relation to learning areas,” said Commissioner Sitole.
According to the University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Stanley Mukhola, of the 15 000 students at the institution only 4000 reside on campus at the residences.
The majority stay off campus and are at risk of muggings, which are a common occurrence in the surrounding community.
Deputy Vice Chancellor Mukhola said he was encouraged by the action taken by the police to ensure a safe learning environment. He said many of the university’s students are victimised off campus because of the porous borders of the university.
“One of our students was almost raped because a person, who is not even a student actually, found it easy to enter the campus and attack ... It is high time that we beef up our security and not only us as a university but also with the national department.
“This project will assist us a great deal as it will start with the establishing parameters around the university,” said Major General Sitole. – SAnews.gov.za