In an attempt at creating a crime-free environment conducive to studying, national police commissioner Khehla Sithole on Friday announced that the SAPS will be piloting a campus safety prevention strategy at the troubled Tshwane University of Technology’s Soshanguve Campus.
Sithole, accompanied by Police Minister Bheki Cele, was addressing TUT students at an imbizo convened at the request of female students from the institution who sought the pair’s presence to discuss issues of crime and violence against women that have plagued the Soshanguve campus.
“We have heard your cries as students that is why we have made time to have this imbizo. The purpose of this imbizo is to fulfil our mandate of achieving community centred policing which seeks to create a crime free environment conducive for learning.
We propose to the minister that this university be the first to pilot the strategy,” said Sithole
The police commissioner acknowledged that this initiative would be the first of its kind in South African universities, meaning there will be certain kinks that still needed to be ironed out.
Deputy vice-chancellor of teaching, learning and technology, Professor Stanley Mukhola, said that the major concerns of safety rose from the fact that there were more than 15 000 students at the Soshanguve campus alone.
Of the 15 000 students only 5000 lived on campus meaning that the rest of this student community had to find accommodation in neighbouring townships, where crime is thriving.
Students in the packed hall did not hold back when they were given the opportunity to voice their concerns to the police minister, the national police commissioner, the MEC for community safety Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane and other high ranking police officials in attendance.
“There is no police station in Soshanguve, not because it does not exist but because it needs a total overhaul due to the criminality and attitude of the police officers who serve there,” said one student.
A female student also added that the Soshanguve campus was easily accessible by anyone including “non-students”.
“The university is waiting for someone to be murdered before they can take serious action to ensure the safety of students,” said the student.
In responding to some of the students’ questions Nkosi-Malobane said there was a community policing forum of volunteer community members that was set up by her department in order to narrow the gap between the student community and the SAPS.
She urged the campus’s students representative council to build a relationship with the community policing forum to enable a better working relationship that will help to keep students safe, on and off campus.
Cele, with the no-nonsense attitude that he had become synonymous for, assured the student community that in the next few days he would be personally visiting the Soshanguve police station together with the national police commissioner to present the students accusations and initiate an investigation.
“All the cases that have been opened and not been investigated will also be revisited,” said Cele.
The police minister also told those in attendance that earlier in the day he had visited one of the residences that accommodated TUT students, Telkom Park, and had found it in an appalling state.
“As we are meeting to discuss women safety, I am certain that in that building many female students have been raped. The condition that it is in is not fit for any human being to stay in. No one seemed to know who the owner of the building was, illegal electricity connections ... if I had my way I would have shut that place down immediately but where would the students go,” asked Cele.
The police minister said male students who sought to treat females in an incriminating manner would be treated by the police in a manner fitting to criminals as being registered students did not exempt them from facing the full might of the law.
Students representative council member Edith Malefe said the stabbing of a female student last week on campus was the last straw.
Malefe, who is the publicity and mass communications officer, said that although they were concerned that the campus safety prevention strategy might lead to a similar type of “militarisation” of university campuses that became synonymous with the fees must fall protests the campus needed serious intervention.