Fed up with continuously being assailed by threats to their safety, students at the University of the Free State (UFS), Bloemfontein Campus, in collaboration with Central University of Technology (CUT), took to the streets on July 27 to demand municipal action against the victimisation of university students.

UFS SRC President S.K Luwaca, cited 406 separate incidents of student victimisation occurring in neighbourhoods surrounding both university campuses. Police statistics compiled by local officials at the Parkweg Police Station indicate that within the last three months, students living in areas such as Brandwag, Universita’s, Willows and others areas have fallen prey to rape, assault, robbery, car theft as well as four separate occurrences of murder.

As part of a week-long safety campaign initiated by the UFS SRC, leaders, students, lecturers and workers from both UFS and CUT embarked on a “symbolic” march to the municipal offices in Bloemfontein’s CBD to submit a memorandum of demands to the town mayor and the office of the MEC for Transport and Public Safety.

The memorandum urges the municipality to increase the presence of police officials in the areas surrounding university spaces. Furthermore, the province of Mangauang is requested to prioritise the safety of students across the metro. Most importantly, the students demand the establishment of by-laws to pave the way for an accreditation process for off-campus accommodation. The criteria for the accreditation process must be derived from the residence criterion prescribed by the Department of Higher Education for university residences on campus. This is to guarantee the safety of students housed off-campus. To ensure the safe transportation and mobility of students in and around the city, the memorandum calls for the implementation of an integrated student-specific transport system. The municipality has been allotted seven days in which to respond.

UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Francis Petersen, pledged that the university has made a commitment to assist the municipality in meeting the demands of the memorandum. As such, the UFS has appointed a team to work alongside municipal officials to ensure that an action plan is formulated and enacted timeously. Luwaca believes that the demands proposed in the memorandum will effectively minimise the harm students are exposed to; “We want a safe campus, in a safe city, in a safe province,” stated Luwaca.

Written by: Tammy Fray