On 10 September 2022, 23-year-old UP student Thapelo Menwe was fatally shot and killed outside TuksDorp residency after refusing to hand over his valuables to a street robber who held him at gunpoint. Following this incident, many students at the university were angry and horrified that a robbery and murder could happen a few metres away from a student residence, and they questioned what the Department of Security Services was doing to secure the area. At a student vigil honoring the life of Menwe, the department committed to reviewing policing in the area. A year after this tragedy, PDBY sat down with Johan Boonzaaier, the director of UP’s Security Services, to find out what the department has done since to strengthen security on and around all UP campuses and residences.

Q: Since the tragic passing of Thapelo, what has been done to improve student safety and security?
A: The University of Pretoria, towards the end of 2022, collaborated with the SRC portfolio for Student Safety and Security on the Green Route initiative. The Green Route initiative was advertised to students entering and exiting the
Hatfield campus gates. This initiative is where students, between the hours of 18:00 and 06:00 daily, may ask to be escorted by a security officer on foot, to and from, areas around the university east of the Hatfield campus, right through to the Hillcrest campus. The service also extends to the Gautrain and areas in close proximity to the Hatfield campus. Members of this department also attend weekly Brooklyn Station Community Crime Forums to discuss crime patterns in the area and ways to address these.

Q: What new security measures have been implemented this year that were previously not in place?
A: The University of Pretoria, specifically the Department of Security Services, has extended the Hatfield City Improvement District (CID), with extra security officers on motorcycles as well as bicycles. This has occurred not only in Hatfield, but includes Lunnon Road (three security officers on bicycles), South Street and Prospect Street. There are also additional motorcyclists that have been deployed in University Road, Lynnwood Road, and the area east of Jan Shoba Street. Due to the university being a major contributor to the Hatfield CID, a supervisor from K9 Tactical Solutions (Hatfield CID’s preferred security contractor) attends daily meetings with the Department of Security Services to share incidents and crime trends as well as [how to] address them.

Q: Did any of the safety suggestions brought up by the student body at the student vigil honoring Thapelo Menwe’s life get implemented?
A: The department beefs up the security presence on and around university campuses and residences during examinations at great extra cost to the university. As mentioned, the Green Route initiative has been extensively promulgated amongst students. This department, in conjunction with the SRC, also evaluates crime trends/incidence[s] and implements mitigating measures as the need arises.
Students can now activate security assistance with the University of Pretoria’s Security Services through a 24-hour
Operational Management Centre on telephone numbers (012) 420 2310 or (012) 420 2760, as well as our operational manager’s cell phone number, which is 083 654 0476. These numbers are found on the reverse side of one’s student card and can be phoned by students should they encounter problems.

Q: Is crime against students on the rise or declining and around Hatfield?
A: In comparison to previous years, cases reported on the periphery are down, but street robberies where students exit their residences with cellular phones to either check on Ubers or Uber Eats are still prominent, as suspects grab the phones from the students’ hands and jump into a waiting vehicle and speed off. These street robberies remain problematic. Scam artists in the area are also prolific, especially during examinations.

Students can avoid being scammed if you apply what your parents have always taught you about not speaking to strangers; if something feels too good to be true, it usually is too good to be true!
Remain aware of your surroundings and, where at all possible, move around Hatfield in groups of three or four or even more and limit [your] intake of alcohol.

Q: What are some concerns the Department of Security Services still has?
A: Despite the beefing up of security at a considerable cost in the areas bordering the University of Pretoria’s premises, students still walk with cellular phones in their hands and to their ears. Earphones are still worn by students walking in the streets, advertising to everyone that they have a device that plays music. Students do not have situational awareness about what is happening around them as they walk to and from campus when they do this. Street robbers capitalise on this lack of situational awareness by students.

Q: Any final remarks?
A: Remember [that] you can activate assistance from the Department of Security Services on the contact details to be found on the reverse side of [your] student card.

It is a year later, and some may say the efforts the Department of Security Services made are sufficient, while others may feel more can be done. Whichever side of the debate you are on, it is important to remember that security is not just the university’s responsibility but also the student body’s responsibility. Walk home with the Green Route initiative, or call your buddies to take you home after a long stint in the library. Do your part to keep safe on these streets.

Stacey Mgijima

Originally posted on the PDBY website:  Tuks beefs up security