Difficult time for the university community

07 October 2019 | From Kgethi

Dear colleagues and students

The University of Cape Town (UCT) executive recognises that the past few weeks have been an extremely difficult and highly distressing time for all members of the campus community. We have gone through an unusual period during which we lost five of our students. While the passing of just one student is difficult to come to terms with, we have had to endure five student deaths since late August.

As the executive, we recognise that this has been a particularly difficult time for the families, close friends and classmates of these deceased students. Even if we did not know the students personally, we are still deeply affected as a community. We want to acknowledge the challenges that students and staff face as they grapple with this devastating loss of young lives – lives that promised to make a meaningful impact on our society.

Two of these students – Uyinene Mrwetyana and Cebo Mbatha – passed away as a result of violent crime. The terrible circumstances surrounding their deaths only adds to the psychological challenge we face in accepting their deaths and finding ways to deal with our loss. Even though these tragic crimes occurred off campus, it makes us all feel a sense of fear and anger. We will continue taking up the fight against crime in Cape Town and South Africa.

Another student, Nicole Heynes, died at home on Monday, 23 September, following an illness; Sonja Canto tragically lost her life in a car accident in Namibia on Tuesday, 1 October; and Lufuno Nathan passed away off campus on the same day due to unknown causes. We are assisting the families of these students and will be preparing an “In remembrance” message for Lufuno, as we do for all UCT students and staff who pass away – our small way of honouring their lives.

We reiterate our condolences to the families, friends and everyone who knew these students, and to the Faculty of Humanities in particular, where each of these students was studying.

The UCT executive continues to keep you all in our thoughts and prayers during this period of bereavement. It is natural in such a time to sometimes have feelings of despondency. We share the emotional burden of this time, and I know you will support each other in this time of healing.

Please keep in mind that counselling support is available at the university for both students and staff. Do not hesitate to reach out to the Student Wellness Service (students) or the Human Resources department (staff).

With you, we carry Uyinene Mrwetyana, Nicole Heynes, Cebo Mbatha, Sonja Canto, Lufuno Nathan and their families and friends in our hearts.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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