Devastation as historical UCT buildings gutted by runaway fire

19 April 2021 | Story Niémah Davids. Photo Rodger Bosch / APR via Gallo Images. Read time 3 min.
A runaway fire destroyed the Jagger Reading Room and other UCT buildings at the weekend.
A runaway fire destroyed the Jagger Reading Room and other UCT buildings at the weekend.

Mop-up operations are under way at the University of Cape Town (UCT), after a large-scale wildfire destroyed several historical buildings on UCT’s upper campus on Sunday, 18 April.

In light of this, the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, announced that all academic activities would be suspended until 23 April. No classes, tutorials, laboratory work or tests will take place for the next four days.

The fire is believed to have started on the slopes of Devil’s Peak on Sunday. It quickly spread to Rhodes Memorial before rapidly reaching UCT’s upper campus in Rondebosch. The extent of the damage to the affected UCT buildings is still unknown.

Devastation

 

“One of the buildings gutted by the runaway fire was the Jagger Reading Room, which forms part of the UCT Libraries’ Special Collections.”

One of the buildings gutted by the runaway fire was the Jagger Reading Room, which forms part of the UCT Libraries’ Special Collections.

UCT’s Special Collections consist of printed and audiovisual material on African studies and a wide array of other specialised subjects, as well as more than 1 300 sub-collections of unique manuscripts and personal papers. The collection of books and pamphlets exceeds 85 000 items on African studies alone, and the collection on African film is among the most extensive in the world, with over 3 000 films available for viewing and research.

The Jagger Reading Room (previously the JW Jagger Library) was constructed in the 1930s and was named after one of UCT Libraries’ main benefactors. Initially, the building served as the university’s main library, and later as a short-loans centre, before officially becoming the African Studies Library’s reading room.

Evacuation

About 4 000 students were evacuated from residences on Sunday and placed at temporary accommodation sites across the city.

Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers has come on board to prepare students’ meals from Old Mutual’s offices in Pinelands. Once meals have been prepared, they are distributed to the various accommodation sites. The necessary arrangements have also been made to cater for Muslim students, who are observing the month of Ramadan.

 

“The UCT community extends its sincerest gratitude to members of the public for their generous donations.”

If you wish to contribute, please drop off essential items such as toiletries, clothes and food at the Old Mutual West Campus, 91 Jan Smuts Road, Pinelands, Cape Town. Alternatively, the institution has also set up a relief fund and welcomes all monetary donations.

The details are:

Account name: UCT Donations Account

Bank: Standard Bank of South Africa

Branch code: Rondebosch Branch, 025009

Account number: 07 152 2387

Swift code: SBZAZAJJ

The UCT community extends its sincerest gratitude to members of the public for their generous donations.


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Memories of Jagger Library – stories from the UCT community



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#UCTFire – stories from the UCT community



Content submitted by members of the UCT community has been published with little to no editorial intervention from UCT News. 

 

In an email to UCT students, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said:
“Thank you for your patience as we seek ways to return to full academic activity at the University of Cape Town under COVID-19 regulations. Our first priority is to ensure the health and safety of everyone who needs to return to campus buildings.”

UCT is deeply grateful to all the donors who supplied food and other essential items for our students, and to everyone who has so generously offered other forms of support and assistance.

Everyone who would like to support the #UCTFire emergency relief fund is urged to please make financial donations to UCT through the UCT Alumni Ways to Give web page.

Donations can also be made by EFT using the details below:
Account name: UCT Donations Account
Bank: Standard Bank of South Africa
Branch code: Rondebosch Branch, 025009
Account number: 07 152 2387
Swift code: SBZAZAJJ
Please include your donor name if you so wish, as well as the reference for your donation, e.g. Name Surname, #UCTFire.

Messages of support


Cengage EMEA 17:00, 7 June 2021
Ricardo de Sao Joao 16:00, 17 May 2021
J.P. Morgan 10:00, 17 May 2021
Unilever Southern Africa 16:10, 6 May 2021
Iziko Museums of South Africa 16:20, 5 May 2021
Sciences Po, France 10:05, 4 May 2021
The University of Tokyo 09:00, 30 April 2021
McCall MacBain Foundation 16:00, 29 April 2021
Stephen Toope, Chair of IARU 23:50, 27 April 2021
Mazi Asset Management 21:00, 27 April 2021
The National Archives (UK) 17:40, 27 April 2021
Universiteit Antwerpen 16:20, 26 April 2021
Yale University 21:15, 23 April 2021
SOAS University of London 17:00, 23 April 2021
University of Nairobi 15:45, 23 April 2021
Zhejiang University 12:05, 23 April 2021
University of Glasgow 11:20, 23 April 2021
Durham University 18:20, 22 April 2021
Sanlam Corporate Team 16:00, 22 April 2021
MANCOSA 16:00, 22 April 2021
Mastercard Foundation 13:30, 22 April 2021
National Research Foundation 09:05, 22 April 2021
Taylor & Francis 08:20, 22 April 2021
McGill University, Canada 21:35, 21 April 2021
Wild Bean Café 19:50, 21 April 2021
Worldwide Universities Network 19:10, 21 April 2021
University of Groningen 13:35, 21 April 2021
National University of Lesotho 11:00, 21 April 2021
Google South Africa 10:35, 21 April 2021
Chinese Ambassador Chen Xiaodong 09:00, 21 April 2021
George Whitefield College 08:40, 21 April 2021
Virginia Tech 02:00, 21 April 2021
University of Southampton 18:10, 20 April 2021
University of the Free State 17:25, 20 April 2021
KU Leuven 15:45, 20 April 2021
Northwestern University 15:45, 20 April 2021
Council on Higher Education 14:00, 20 April 2021
Times Higher Education 11:45, 20 April 2021
Regent Business School 11:15, 20 April 2021
Professor Crain Soudien 09:05, 20 April 2021
University of the Western Cape 09:00, 20 April 2021
Bishop Tshalo Katshunga 07:30, 20 April 2021
National Library of France 20:50, 19 April 2021
Thabo Mbheki Foundation 20:00, 19 April 2021
Stellenbosch University 19:10, 19 April 2021
Chinese Embassy in South Africa 17:20, 19 April 2021
University of Hull 17:00, 19 April 2021
University of Copenhagen 13:25, 19 April 2021
Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies 13:10, 19 April 2021
Mastercard Foundation 10:50, 19 April 2021
Stellenbosch University 09:20, 19 April 2021
Minister Blade Nzimande 09:15, 19 April 2021
Committee on Higher Education 09:10, 19 April 2021
University of the Witwatersrand 09:05, 19 April 2021
University of Pretoria 09:00, 19 April 2021

 

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