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Crime hits city university

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Videos are doing the rounds on social media depicting the destruction of university property and an attack on what is believed to be a student.

A screengrab of the video of a man with a baseball bat at SPU.

THE CURRENT crime wave sweeping the city has also hit Sol Plaatje University (SPU), with a number of incidents where students have been attacked being reported.

Videos are doing the rounds on social media depicting the destruction of university property and an attack on what is believed to be a student.

SPU indicated yesterday that it was aware of the videos, but added that no student had reported any incidents to the university or campus security.

SPU spokesperson Kashini Maistry said yesterday that campus security management viewed the content soon after it was posted on social media.

“Our platforms are monitored for content that may need our intervention,” Maistry said.

The one incident shows what is stated to be an attack on a student by “robbers”, apparently at the open piece of ground next to the Telkom building in Lennox Street.

“Our security is not aware of this incident and it did not take place on our campus. It is unclear if the person being assaulted is in fact a student. Attempts to get more information on the incident have been unsuccessful,” Maistry said.

The second video shows two men arriving on the Central Campus of the university in a bakkie. They get out of the vehicle and one is armed with a baseball bat.

Maistry confirmed that this incident happened last Sunday (April 14).

She explained that three Sol Plaatje University students, who were walking from Diamond Lodge towards the Central Campus, were joined by an unknown male.

“Upon approaching the Baron Club, the unknown male was grabbed by a group of males who were drinking outside the Baron Club and who tried to force him into the club. The three SPU students allegedly intervened and rescued him,” Maistry said.

She added that the three students and the unknown male were then chased by the group but they managed to evade them.

“As they approached Luka Jantjie House they realised that they were being followed by a group of men in a silver grey Ford Ranger, so they split up and ran towards the Central Campus.

“Two of the men from the group, who were in the vehicle, followed two of the students through the William Pescod premises on foot where they hurled insults and stones at the students.”

Maistry went on to say that the other men entered Scanlan Street at high speed in their vehicle, swerving towards the remaining student with the intention of allegedly knocking him down.

“The men in the vehicle then made a U-turn in Lawson Street. They got out of the vehicle and forced their way into the Security Control Room, threatening the students and staff, all the while brandishing a baseball bat.”

She added that a struggle ensued and they left the area, got back into their vehicle and proceeded to drive onto the paved area on the Central Campus Square.

“They then used their baseball bat to break a glass door at the entrance to the Moroka Building. They were later seen removing the number plate from their vehicle. Our unarmed security staff protected the students from physical harm but were not able to get the licence registration number of the vehicle.”

Maistry said that the police were called and a case of malicious damage to property was opened against the perpetrators.

“Private security were also requested to assist in locating suspects where possible,” she said.

Maistry added that the suspects remain at large and unidentified.

She said that students have not reported any specific incidents to the campus security.

However, she said that students did express concerns over their safety in an article published in a weekly newspaper in January.

She said that SPU management was not asked for comment on the article but the university exercised its right to reply.

The university commented as follows: “The safety of our students is of paramount importance; to this end we introduced green routes to create a safe environment for our students as they navigate their way between academic and administrative buildings, sporting facilities and the various student residences.

“The green route was initially established for the route between Tauana (Birbeck Road) and Central Campus for those students who were taking their supper at Central Campus.

“The concept was kept in place even though they are now taking meals in the Tauana canteen. It requires relatively low numbers of extra officers due to line-of-sight monitoring.

“Our security also conducts vehicle patrols on the route to Mhudi (off Du Toitspan Road) and Ra-Thaga (off Edward Street), but deploying larger numbers of officers to patrol public streets is simply not affordable at this point.

“The university lies within the heart of Kimberley so our buildings are not located to one defined area or campus. Our campuses are spread across the inner city and integrated into the fabric of that area. We will therefore engage with SAPS and the municipality about arrangements for securing the public areas surrounding the university.

“With the increase in students in private accommodation we are looking at smart ways of expanding security visibility around the South Campus, Central Campus and the Ra-Thaga/Mhudi areas without exponentially increasing costs.

“One such initiative is the ‘walking buses’ where students arrange to meet in groups at a designated time and walk to their common destination where they can be accompanied by a security officer.

“So far, we have only a very few incidents of muggings reported to us so this makes it very difficult to formulate a strategy to improve safety in specific areas.

“We encourage our students to report all incidents to us so that we can make assessments and also hold discussions in our community policing forums with SAPS.”

“The police are investigating a case of malicious damage to property. No suspects have been identified or arrested,” police spokesperson Captain Tessa Jansen said yesterday.