Dear UCT community and friends
We are engaging at a time of profound sorrow, and it has been difficult over the last few days to find the words to express the sorrow that we feel. But in the midst of this, I believe that we have a lot to be grateful for, considering that we are reflecting today without having to mourn the loss of any student or staff member.
Following this traumatic start to the week, I wish to thank all staff and especially our hands-on Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng and her executive team. To the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) and other student leaders, thank you for your bravery and swift action in ensuring the evacuation and wellbeing of all students.
After seeing the severe destruction that we are left to rebuild, and as we come to terms with the loss of part of our nearly 200-year* old library, it seems at this point in time, that walking the halls of this prestigious institution may never be the same again.
In the last five years the University of Cape Town (UCT) has devoted considerable amounts of effort and resources toward transformation. With these efforts, simultaneous strategies for environmental conservation and sustainability have intensified. Our outlook for UCT has been consistently forward looking, and everyone has made significant strides in aligning the growth and success of this institution with the evolving social and cultural perceptions that influence our society today.
While much has been lost, our focus now must be on rebuilding in order to maintain these strides that have been made. We now must set our sights on visualising the fertile ground that has been left behind and how we hope to build it back better. Our strategy for transformation and sustainability will guide us along this path.
UCT is now walking an unprecedented journey. Without examples to emulate and leaders to learn from, particularly on the continent, UCT has been afforded an opportunity to become the trailblazing standard in this regard. When history is destroyed, what we erect in its place will represent the beginning of a new era.
A lot needs to be done in the immediate and short-term in order to continue the academic year without further interruption. I have absolute faith in the UCT leadership team to overcome this period of tragedy and facilitate a sense of normalcy back into the lives of students and staff.
Looking ahead, we must take this current state that we find ourselves in and galvanise our advocacy and knowledge support for the local communities of Cape Town. While we are privileged enough to recover from this misfortune, there are many surrounding communities that would not recover as easily. Vagrancy is an assault on people’s dignity, and it is another social ill that has been intertwined to this destruction. Going forward, we must recognise that we are in a fitting position to add our voices into this discussion and we can initiate transformation that our internal community will feel and see even once they leave the institution.
Environmental considerations are imperative as we implement strategies to rebuild but it is also necessary that we use the wisdom generated by our community to assist others who are working on this cause on the ground. We often talk about the public benefit of university, and it is my hope that the public support that has been shown to the UCT community during this time has galvanised our stakeholder relations with the public.
Everyone here has shown such strength and determination over the last year, as we worked to resolve the effects of the pandemic. It is important that we don’t run out of steam now.
Our mission for progress and transformation has taken us on a route that we never expected. But the excellence that this acclaimed university represents is shaped by our own ingenuity, our own innovation and our resourcefulness.
We have been confronted with a reality that challenges us to recreate. This requires our creativity, our imagination, and the coming together of our diverse skillsets and talents. The excellence that we represent cannot, and will not, be destroyed.
Our institutional excellence is a result of our collective selves and I am confident that we will rise from this as a transformed institution that is recognised globally for its ability to overcome tragedy whilst still upholding academic quality and institutional honour.
Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe
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