University safety task team established

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Police Minister Bheki Cele, university vice-chancellors and the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSiRA) have established a task team to improve campus safety.

On 23 October 2019, Cele met with vice-chancellors from the country’s 26 universities and PSiRA to deliberate interventions following the recent spate of violence and murders on and off campus in recent weeks. During the meeting, Cele also engaged the vice-chancellors on improving campus safety and new approaches to policing that may facilitate this.

In a joint statement, Cele stressed the importance of students feeling safe and being safe on and off campus.

“The violence on and off campus extends to more than gender-based violence (GBV). We are now seeing that there are attacks and violence against the overall student community,” read the statement.

The CEO of PSiRA, Manabela Chauke, said all universities must have minimum standards of security and that all security officers deployed on campuses must be vetted and trained specifically for the student environment.

Universities of South Africa CEO, Professor Ahmed Bawa, told the gathering that students must be an integral part of the safety changes they want to see on campuses.

“We cannot do this alone. We may have the capacity to do some things but we need the buy in from students, the communities around the institutions and the SAPS [SA Police Service], the criminal justice system and other relevant governmental operations. This is an issue that has to be dealt with holistically. It is a social crisis,” said Bawa. 

The statement said all parties agreed to establish a working committee that will look at short- and long-term security solutions on and off campuses.

The committee will comprise representatives from the Police Ministry and Secretariat, PSiRA, as well as members of Universities South Africa. The team will be tasked with looking at some of the proposals brought forward.

“These include the establishment of victim friendly facilities that will speedily assist students who have fallen victim to crime, especially those who have been affected by gender-based violence. It is hoped these facilities will provide the necessary care and services to students with the assistance of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit of the SAPS,” read the statement.

Another proposal to be looked into is the adoption of Institutions of higher learning by police officers to improve response time.

“The issue of socio-economic challenges will also be investigated by the team to see how students can be better assisted to avoid them falling prey to criminal networks. Student transport and accommodation will also be further interrogated by the working committee. It will, amongst other things, engage landlords about the security measures in place to ensure the safety of students living in off campus accommodation,” the parties said.

The committee is expected to engage further with the Departments of Higher Education and Training and Social Development Department to extend student safety to TVET colleges and schools. 

The vice-chancellors indicated a strong willingness to collaborate with the Minister and his team and pledged to bring the strong research capacity of universities to bear on the issue of social violence.

Cele urged the student population to also come on board to find solutions. 

“Students shouldn’t feel that we as the police are creating police states around them. We want a dialogue with them and for them to be part of the fight against crime. 

“We know that alcohol is a big contributor to students coming under attack and also attacking each other. This is why we will be going hard on illegal drinking holes that fuel crime, especially on weekends,” Cele said. –