Task team established to improve safety at SA universities
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Johannesburg - Minister of Police General Bheki Cele has engaged with the vice-chancellors from the country’s 26 universities in Johannesburg on improving campus safety and new approaches to policing that may facilitate this.
Together with the private security industry regulatory authority (PSiRA) responsible for the regulation of the private security industry at institutions of higher learning, Cele on Wednesday said he was stressed about the importance of students feeling safe and being safe on and off-campus.
This comes after the recent spate of violence and murders on and off campuses in recent weeks.
Cele urged the student population to 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," said Cele.
Chief executive officer (CEO) of PSiRA, Manabela Chauke, said that all universities must have minimum standards of security standards and that all security officers deployed on campuses must be vetted and trained specifically for the student environment.
"The violence on and off campuses extends to more than just gender-based violence (GBV), we are now seeing that there are attacks and violence against the overall student community."
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 [SA Police Service] SAPS, 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.
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 of representatives from the police ministry and secretariat, PSIRA, as well as members of from Universities of 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," said Cele.
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.