UCT fire: Students return to campus

22 April 2021 | Story Carla Bernardo. Photos Lerato Maduna, Jean Claude Nsabimana. Director Malik Ntone Edjabe. Videography Astroclutter Films & Oatmeal Productions. Video Edit Astroclutter Films. Read time 3 min.
Displaced UCT students started returning to campus on Thursday, 22 April.

Students from the University of Cape Town (UCT) began departing emergency accommodation sites on Thursday morning as the process for a return to campus was under way, following the recent fires that affected the Rondebosch campus and surrounds.

As the university welcomed back students, those who reside in Smuts Hall and Fuller Hall – both residences located on upper campus – began collecting their belongings ahead of their move to temporary accommodation sites organised by the university.

Residence staff were back at work and ready to welcome students with hot and hearty meals.

Collaborative effort

The return to campus follows a massive collaborative effort to relocate students who were evacuated from UCT residences on Sunday. Staff members, the Students’ Representative Council, fellow students and hotels across the city worked together to ensure displaced students were accommodated.

Staff at UCT’s Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) and their neighbours at Protea Hotel by Marriott Cape Town Waterfront Breakwater Lodge were instrumental in the immediate moments following the evacuation, becoming the main port of call for displaced students. On Sunday, they took in 600 students, and on Monday, a further 450 to 500 arrived.

Initially, four hotels stepped forward to assist the university: Protea Hotel by Marriott Cape Town Waterfront Breakwater Lodge, The Westin Cape Town, Protea Hotel by Marriott Cape Town Victoria Junction, and Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Cape Town. That number quickly grew to more than 20 hotels across the city.

While the relocation to emergency accommodation sites was under way, firefighters worked around the clock to douse the flames, and disaster response organisation Gift of the Givers prepared meals and coordinated donations. Their work was enabled by Old Mutual, who opened their facilities as a base at no charge. Corporates such as Shoprite and Checkers, Spur, Engen, The Foschini Group and Nestlé all stepped in to help.

Cape Town residents, and citizens from across the country, were quick to offer support – from donating food and hygiene packs, to providing transportation for delivery there was no limit to the kindness and generosity shown.

The return to campus will continue throughout the day on Thursday, and the university remains vigilant about the ongoing threat of COVID-19. Protocols will continue to be observed: face masks will be worn at all times, a safe social distance of 1.5 m will be kept and regular handwashing will be adhered to.


Students are reminded that the university’s Student Wellness Service (SWS) remains available to those who require assistance. In response to the fires and the overall health implications thereof, UCT’s Department of Students Affairs and the SWS set up satellite medical service points at temporary accommodation sites. These services remain available to students and bookings can be made online or via email (sws@uct.ac.za).

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