Terrified TUT students' pleas are heard. Now they want action
Robbery and abuse of women rampant as Police minister steps in after listening to desperate students
The security protocol for a visitor driving into the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) Soshanguve Campus takes about 15 minutes.
Yet all of these strict security procedures seemingly do not deter criminals.
For students, the reality of crime is a harsh one, so when third-year legal assistance student Mitchel Moloto had the opportunity to meet Police Minister Bheki Cele, she set in motion an intervention plan.
Cele has now established a programme to into the safety of students on the campus. The TUT/SAPS Task Team already had its first meeting on May 16.Most vulnerable are the majority of students who leave the campus late at night, since the campus is in a crime hot spot in Soshanguve, TUT student representative council (SRC) president Katlego Makyobola said.
“We have about 17,000 registered students and can only accommodate about 4,500. This means the rest live off-campus. The library closes at 10pm, so then they are forced to leave.”Other students raised concerns over the lack of proper lights and night patrols by security personnel.
Makyobola said that in 2017 a student died after being stabbed repeatedly while on his was back to Block L, Soshanguve after leaving the library at night.
They know of many more incidents in which students have been robbed on and off campus, or had their belongings stolen in their residences.
“Students do not even report some of these incidents any more, because we have case numbers but get no feedback on the cases,” he said.
Moloto told Cele that crime has turned the campus into a mini war zone, with cases of women abuse on the rise.
The most recent incident of assault and attempted rape occurred early this month when a man gained access to the campus and allegedly tried to rape a female student. In 2016 a student was shot and robbed on her way back from church.“Your parents think you are safe here, but the recent incident has made us fear for our safety. Our campus security is not effective enough; most times they just guard university property. During the recent incident the girl screamed for about 30 minutes but no one came. But if it was students protesting they would come running,” she claimed.
She said that since Cele’s visit they have noticed a lot of police around the campus.
On a visit to the campus the Sunday Times saw no security guards at the male residences, and noticed thick bushes surrounding the campus.
“What will it take for management to realise that the issue of safety here is serious?” a frustrated Makyobola said.
TUT spokesperson Willa de Ruiter said the safety of all students is a priority. “TUT has been engaging with important stakeholders for funding to assist in implementing a comprehensive security plan.”
It will be implemented as soon as funding is released by the Department of Higher Education and Training, she said.
“Some of the interventions include the building of a new perimeter wall, the introduction of a biometrics system and 24-hour camera surveillance on these campuses.”De Ruiter said TUT welcomed Cele’s visit, which included a dialogue with students, a meeting with members of the executive and campus management committees, as well as a walkabout in the community.
“The university is excited by the minister’s announcement that TUT will become the first higher education institution in South Africa where the pilot project of a comprehensive, SAPS-led campus safety strategy will be rolled out,” he said.
The minister’s announcement that one of the SAPS tactical response teams will from now on patrol the streets around the Soshanguve North campus on Fridays and Saturdays, was also encouraging. “This will go a long way in making our campuses safer.”
In addition, the minister ordered the demolition of the illegally occupied building adjacent to the Soshanguve North Campus, which posed serious security risks for students.
Cele's spokesperson, Nonkululeko Phokane, said students raised a number of serious complaints related to campus safety, crime incidents and an increase in women abuse.
The police's response rate was another matter raised, as well as the slow turnaround time on cases, allegations of corrupt police officers at the station, and the close proximity of taverns to the Soshanguve North Campus. These taverns operate until 2am.
“The minister called on the head of the detectives to revisit the three murder cases that had been reported .
“The theme ‘Taking a firm stand for the safety of women and child’ talks to Cele’s vision of seeing young girls or women walk anywhere in South Africa at 2am without fear of assault or rape.”