Each year as excited students grace Grahamstown with their presence, some for the very first time, local businesses gear up for O-Week. However, as Grahamstown’s population suddenly swells, so can the risk of crime. In past years, students have carried with them traumatic O-Week memories, with reports of students being robbed, violently harassed or sexually assaulted. As a result of this, residents have taken the town’s safety into their own hands.
Posters on the sides of animal-proof rubbish bins near New and Somerset Streets warn that 24/7 CCTV cameras in the area are monitoring crime. The Makana Revive initiative was finalised early 2018 and the citizen action group’s chairperson Ron Weissenberg said O-Week would be a good test.
Grocott’s Mail spoke to first-year and returning students about how safe they’d felt during O-Week.
First-years Roche Williams and Yandiswa Tembe had very positive O-Week experiences. Williams said she felt safe and was given ample advice about campus and town. Tembe said her house committee had been very helpful, adding to her welcoming first week in Grahamstown. Returning student Sniko Lukubeni agreed O-Week was safer, especially with the presence of CPU on campus.
Grocott’s Mail spoke to six students and two said they had heard of a first-year student being sexually assaulted during O-Week. As a result, they were afraid to go out and particpate in various festivities. Grocott’s Mail cannot confirm this information at this time.
Sade Sandham, co-manager of The Rat and Parrot said, “One thing we have noticed [is that]the first-years seemed to be more geared up as to what to expect. Previous years they were walking around with cellphones in their back pockets, talking on their phones, being very oblivious to potential dangers. We have noticed that has definitely improved.”
She said businesses were also more prepared for O-Week this year. “Bigger nights we got extra bouncers, we asked Hi-Tec to do more visible policing as well as the police. We are in further talks with getting CCTV cameras around town [and]Makana Revive has become quite a big part of that.
“It’s not just the businesses: the residents themselves have gotten involved in the safety of the town as well as the students. There are massive improvements. We are definitely united as companies and as residents to ensure the safety of Grahamstonians.”
Statistics released by SAPS spokesperson Captain Khaya Thonjeni on the Grahamstown Cluster for O-Week are reported as one burglary, one theft out of motor-vehicle, one general theft, one kidnapping and robbery (no injuries, cellphone stolen). Of these incidents only one case was reported.