Carnival lights up campus on inaugural UCT Day, all in aid of students

16 October 2023 | Story Helen Swingler. Photos Lerato Maduna. Videography Ruairi Abrahams and Boikhutso Ntsoko. Video Edit Boikhutso Ntsoko. VP Team Roxanne Harris, Ruairi Abrahams, Boikhutso Ntsoko and Rozanne Engel. Read time 10 min.
The inaugural UCT Day on 6 October drew more than 3 000 participants to the rugby fields to enjoy a day of UCT community building, all to support four key student support initiatives.

UCT Day. 6 October 2023. The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) lush Green Mile is humming ahead of the inaugural, university-wide carnival. Giant inflatables are ballooning, stalls are going up and food kiosks are rumbling in. It’s a day for connection among staff, students and alumni. But best of all, it’s in aid of four vital student support initiatives: food security, fees, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and wellness.

Events start at noon with live music and interviews by UCT Radio, which kicks off with a warm-up session. And even though the weather has turned up as a trio of ugly sisters (call them Wind, Cloud and Frozen), it’s a festival (Bubble Soccer rules), a leveller (here’s looking at you, UCT executive jockeys and three-legged racers), a day of wheeling cartwheels (thank you, young ones), of blue blazers on proud shoulders (yay, the Ikey Tigers, 2023 World University Rugby Invitational Tournament champions who got down to tug of war with the Students’ Representative Council (SRC)), 5 km walkers, pompoms and choreography (yes, for the UCT Cheerleaders), painted faces and tutu-clad way-finders (high fives, BMW-sponsored UCT Amazing Racers).

Twenty students gave up their time for the eight-hour phonathon to raise funds for four key student need areas.

And to add to the gees (spirit), there are stalls, one laying out branded UCT merchandise; others information about various student care initiatives. In one area, a 360-photo video booth is being set up, which proves hugely popular. For the gentle amblers, there are UCT Libraries tours and UCT Campus Sustainability guided walking tour to look forward to. And the neighbouring Sports Centre plays host to high-paced five-a-side soccer and wheelchair rugby.

Participants in the 5 km walk set off at a fast pace.

Birthday month

The timing is perfect: October is UCT’s birthday month, and the event coincides with school holidays. The children and grandchildren have come out to play; families, picnicking on blankets, reclining in the pop-up lounge areas and lolling on beanbags.

Alumni chapters abroad are also celebrating UCT Day. The Canadian Alumni and Friends host an end-of-summer picnic. At the London base, alumni drop in for pukka rooibos tea and rusks or a breakfast bite. The chapter in Australia hosts an inaugural UCT Women’s Lunch.

In the background, event organisers, UCT’s Development and Alumni Department (DAD), run an eight-hour phonathon, calling on alumni and friends to pledge their support, helping the university to deliver on its Vision 2030 and its pillars of excellence, transformation and sustainability.

And they’re off! UCT Day gets into swing at the Horse Derby.

DAD has worked flat out to pull everything together, a team effort starting with the Leadership Lekgotla with other key UCT departments coordinating a range of logistics. These include Properties & Services, the University of the Future project, UCT Sport, including the Athletics Society and UCT parasport, the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), various student societies, including the Film Society and UCT Radio, UCT Libraries, ICTS, UCT TV, the Film Society, the Athletics Society, the Commercial Development Unit, the Sustainable Campus Initiative, the Communication and marketing Department (CMD), and the faculties.

Celebrating UCT’s essence

In a communiqué to the UCT community ahead of the event, Vice-Chancellor interim Emeritus Professor Day Reddy describes the spirit of UCT Day.


“UCT Day is for everyone … more than a celebration, it's a commitment to support our own.”

“It is all about celebrating the essence of who we are, and the spirit of excellence and innovation that pervades our various activities. UCT Day is for everyone … more than a celebration, it’s a commitment to support our own. Please help us raise as much funding as we can for our students, and challenge others in your network to do the same.”

The sentiment is echoed by DAD.

Wheelchair rugby and five-aside soccer were hosted in the UCT Sports Centre.

“UCT Day recognises that as much as everyone may have a different experience within UCT, at the end of the day, people [are coming] together to celebrate being a part of this prestigious university, regardless of their experiences,” says DAD’s Nomcebo Msweli.

“I love the fact that I was part of the team that made history by hosting the first-ever UCT Day.”

UCT Day started with a warm-up session led by the Sports Science Institute of South Africa.


UCT Day activities draws more than 3 000 participants and the outdoor film, courtesy of Sunshine Cinema, has more than 1 000 bookings.

Even the UCT executive, who are preparing for the Executive Challenge (which brought much hilarity), say how much they need and enjoy “letting their hair down and just having fun”, she adds.

In the pink – UCT staffers rock their tutus for UCT Day.

DAD’s Cindy de Oliveira says, “Working on a project that includes so many UCT departments pulling towards a common goal is a special experience. This is the first iteration of UCT Day, which is a challenge, but with the support and guidance from our internal stakeholders, we have produced a successful event.” 


“They managed to call 1 175 alumni and raised R91 000 in pledges to the four projects.”

Registrar Royston Pillay (left) and IAPO director, Quinton Johnson, on their way to winning the three-legged race, with DVC Prof Elelwani Ramugondo (left) and the OIC’s Dr Sianne Alves hot on their heels.

The eight-hour, cross-country phonathon in the Kramer Law Building is a buzz of excitement, says De Oliveira, manned by 20 students from the various faculties who called alumni to discuss donation opportunities.

“They managed to call 1 175 alumni and raised R91 000 in pledges to the four initiatives,” De Oliveira notes.

Feedback and prizewinners

The day ends with a prizegiving of medals and sponsored goodie bags.

Speaking after the event, the BMW-sponsored Amazing Race winner, Team Purple, a group of four intrepid students, Aadil Musbally, Dhishna Ramduny, Bhooshay Dooki, and Hritik Kala, were exuberant. They also showed how far the UCT community stretches; three of the four team members are students from Mauritius, who met on the plane coming to UCT.

The event was challenging, said Musbally.

“The fact that the buildings to be found were scattered around campus, meant we had to run everywhere and one thing about UCT is the stairs and being on a mountain, so, it was a non-stop intense hiking experience!

“The fact that it was a group made with friends and helping each other to solve the clues, and to find new areas on campus that I did not know existed – even after four years.”

Winners of the BMW-sponsored UCT Amazing Race were Team Purple (from left) students Bhooshay Dookey, Dhishna Ramduny, Aadil Musbally and Hritik Kala.

Kala, a last-minute inclusion on the team, added, “The race was fun and exciting. It was interesting learning about the significant people, events, and heritage that UCT boasts of, for example, the cryogenics lab in RW James Building and the One Button Studio in Steve Biko.

“Some challenges were difficult, like finding obscure places, but running around UCT makes for a good workout!”


“It highlights the momentous achievements of the institution and showcases the transformative power that it yields.”

As for the significance of UCT Day, Kala said, “It’s quite a significant event; one that rallies together the community of students, staff, and alumni. It highlights the momentous achievements of the institution and showcases the transformative power that it yields.

“Apart from forging lasting memories and exploring the arcane beauty and splendour that is interspersed on campus, I would highly recommend partaking in not just the race, but any activity on the day. Plus, if you’re a student on the verge of writing your exams, doing this will take your mind away from the stress in an exciting respite. I couldn’t recommend it enough.”

For Team Lavender’s Omphitlhetse Mooki, senior manager at CMD, it was an opportunity to live a dream.

“I love adventure and the Amazing Race show has always been one of my favourites. However, watching a show and actually participating in [a race] is quite different. It was both a physical and mental test, such as finding the formula for chocolate. I had never been that blank in my life.

“But we had fun running around campus in our tutus and interacting with students and staff from other departments. It was lovely to visit buildings I’ve read about or only ever seen on UCT News videos and pictures; so UCT Day helped to orientate me to parts of campus I’d never been to.”

For more information on these projects and ways to donate supporters can visit the UCT Day website.

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