Cape Argus 13 February 2020

Cape Town – “Stellenbosch has always been a safe haven for students to study; however, crime has escalated during the past two years.”

This is according to a source who works with students. She said the most common tools had been knives and guns used to intimidate and assault students.

She said there was no doubt the recent banning of alcohol in residences at Stellenbosch University (SU) was a step in the right direction to combat “senseless deaths and gender-based violence”, adding: “However, I believe there is a new wave of crime…”

She said during a three-day trip to SU last week, “there were a few incidences that occurred in and around the campus” that did not involve any alcohol.

The first, she said, happened in broad daylight, when a 23-year-old student not far from his residence was approached by “a group of criminals” who held him up at knifepoint, asking for his cellphone.

“After a few words were exchanged, the student luckily sprinted back to his residence and was unharmed.

“Two days later, again in broad daylight, a student was mugged by the same group of criminals, also held up at knifepoint for her phone, and the criminals ran off with it.”

The source said that on February 1, a second-year student was on his phone when he was attacked and robbed at gunpoint in Bird Street, off campus. “Bird Street is apparently becoming a no-go zone for students as crime is rife in that street.”

SU Students Representative Council chairperson Lewis Mboko said a few days ago a “shocking video” was circulating on social media of two men stealing a laptop in the student centre.

Mboko said this raised alarm among Stellenbosch students. “We have an open campus which is not gated, so we’re prone to have a lot of criminal issues.”

Mboko encouraged students and the university to be “hyper-vigilant and careful with their belongings”.

SU spokesperson Martin Viljoen said the safety of students and staff remained a primary concern and millions had been spent on safety and security measures over the past few years, adding: “And safety and security arrangements are reviewed continuously.”

Viljoen said in spite of the fact that they had an open campus intertwined with the Stellenbosch CBD, posing unique challenges, the university had experienced a downwards trend in crime statistics over the last few years.

He said campus safety and security should always be a partnership between the university and its security, staff and students, Stellenbosch residents and local law enforcement agencies. “In this regard, trends can only be addressed if incidences of crime are reported.”

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