Renaming of Smuts Hall

21 June 2021

Dear colleagues and students

The University of Cape Town (UCT) Council took a number of key decisions at its meeting held on Saturday, 19 June 2021.

We will as usual soon write to the UCT community on the various decisions that have been taken at Council.

I did however want to inform you of a key decision taken at the meeting. This is due to the necessity to formally convey this decision sooner due to the immediacy of its implications for the campus community.

Council deliberated and approved a recommendation of the Naming of Buildings Committee to change the name of Smuts Hall, the student residence on the upper campus. This decision of Council takes immediate effect in that the name Smuts Hall will be removed from the residence and in the interim the name Upper Campus Residence will be used until such time that the process of determining a new name is formally concluded.

Council’s decision will allow UCT to move on from the past while continuing to recognise the significance of our legacy. There are many creative possibilities for reimagining the UCT campus in ways that will build inclusivity and look to the future. Over the coming months, UCT will be holding discussions across our community about the new name for the Upper Campus Residence, as well as for other buildings.

As much as this is part of the ongoing transformation efforts at UCT, any name change process can be emotive for both those calling for the name to be replaced and those wishing for it to be retained. However, if anything, the Smuts Hall renaming should provide a moment through which we view the name changing processes from completely different lenses.

The changing of names should not be seen as merely replacing what we do not like with what we feel resonates well with us or what we feel we relate better to. It should go beyond the view that the name we are changing is a source of discomfort or pain for those advocating for change. Nor should it be viewed as an act of diminishing, discarding or deviating from history by those who would wish that the status quo should remain.

It should be seen as an opportunity for us to forge a new path together, towards creating an environment of inclusivity and shared identity on campus. An environment where all members of the campus community feel represented by, and can reflect on and relate to the buildings, spaces and symbols on campus.

Collectively, we can all help in efforts to continue creating an environment on our campus that is increasingly inclusive and reflective of the growing diversity in our campus community.

I have a clear sense that UCT is in a new moment. How far we have come from the time of #RhodesMustFall. The utter pain and anguish at the time of the decision to remove the Rhodes statue from campus was significant. And yet, we have as a campus moved closer to a community that can speak with one another, can acknowledge the complexities of the past but honour its gifts, can engage each other to come to new names of campus spaces that we feel is more representative of our current values and who we are as an inclusive collective. Whilst we have varied perspectives and diverse backgrounds and opinions, we are able to see and collectively forge a more inclusive future and shared identity.

What a moment. I invite you all to participate.


Babalwa Ngonyama
Chair of UCT Council

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