Police Minister Bheki Cele, university vice-chancellors and the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSiRA) have established a task team to ramp up safety on campuses.
Cele met with vice-chancellors from the country’s 26 universities and PSiRA to discuss interventions following the recent spate of violence and murders on and off campus in recent weeks.
“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,” a joint statement said.
PSiRA CEO 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, said 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 added that 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, tasked with looking at some of the proposals.
“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.
Students’ socio-economic challenges were also discussed.
“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 statement continued.
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.