Gift of the Givers on the ground to help UCT

19 April 2021 | Story Carla Bernardo. Photos Lerato Mhlanga. Director Roxanne Harris. Videography and Edit Oatmeal Productions. Read time 5 min.
Africa’s largest disaster response non-governmental organisation, Gift of the Givers, has stepped in to help UCT and its students.

Gift of the Givers, Africa’s largest disaster response non-governmental organisation, was on the ground on Monday, 19 April, to continue its efforts to assist the University of Cape Town (UCT) and students following the devastation caused by the fires that began on Sunday morning.

The organisation became involved once the university had evacuated students from residences near its main campus. Gift of the Givers project manager, Ali Sablay, said that a request had been made for the organisation’s help to feed 4 000 students.

They immediately swung into action on Sunday, 18 April, and finished feeding students at 01:40 on Monday morning. Operations resumed later on Monday morning at the Old Mutual West Campus in Pinelands. Sablay noted that Old Mutual had offered their facility free of charge and was willing to assist despite the short notice.

Ali Sablay, Gift of the Givers project manager, said that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Regarding the request from the university for further assistance, Gift of the Givers will continue feeding students three meals daily for the next seven days and will work with the UCT Council to assess the situation thereafter.

Many corporations have come on board, eager to help and ensure that students are as comfortable as possible. Gift of the Givers is coordinating donations from the likes of Shoprite, The Foschini Group, Nestlé, Engen and vida e caffè.

Individuals have also been quick and eager to assist. Sablay said that as soon as the news broke that Gift of the Givers would be feeding students, their office was surrounded by cars and volunteers.


“The spirit of ubuntu is overflowing.”

One such volunteer was a resident from Khayelitsha who had lost all his belongings in two fires. The man said that although he couldn’t provide accommodation and was unable to make a donation, he wanted to help in whatever way possible, including offloading trucks and distributing food to students.

“The spirit of ubuntu is overflowing,” said Sablay.

He added that there is a need for hygiene packs for students, particularly sanitary pads. Those wanting to donate non-perishable food and other items may drop them at Old Mutual. Sablay also advised that South Africans keep track of the organisation’s social media feeds for further updates.

‘Do what we can’

Professor Adam Haupt, the director of UCT’s Centre for Film and Media Studies, was also at the drop-off and distribution point on Monday morning. After hearing that there was a need for additional transportation, he volunteered to pick up and drop off donations.

Professor Haupt provided further context: “The students who are in residence, in the context of COVID-19, are [there] precisely because they cannot work from home due to various circumstances.”

These circumstances include and speak to South Africa’s racialised inequality, the digital divide, and various other class and social factors. That the fire has happened during a pandemic makes the situation much more difficult for students.

Haupt advised that those who can physically help should do so, but must remain wary of exposing themselves and their families to COVID-19. And for those who cannot help in person, there are other options, such as donating to the #UCTFire emergency relief fund or Gift of the Givers.

“Let’s do what we can,” said Haupt.

‘We are your family’

Many UCT students and their families were also at the drop-off and distribution centre, including final-year BA student and Golden Key fundraising director Demi-Lin Duncan. She had been hiking in Newlands Forest when the fire began, but luckily made it to safety in time.

While academic activities are suspended, Demi-Lin Duncan (far right) is spending her time helping Gift of the Givers.

After the university announced that academic activities would be suspended, Duncan decided that the best use of her time would be to help fellow students. She added that the response from residents has been heart-warming, and that despite the restrictions of the pandemic, people are eager to help.

Duncan also shared a message to fellow students who have been directly affected: “We are all here to help you. Reach out to your friends and family, message tutors and lecturers … We are your family.”

Members of the public who would like to donate essential items can drop them off at Old Mutual West Campus, 91 Jan Smuts Road, Pinelands, between 06:00 and 23:00.

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#UCTFire – one year later

Jagger Library Memorial Exhibition opens on 20 April 2022

The Centre for Curating the Archive, in association with Michaelis Galleries (UCT) and UCT Libraries will stage a memorial exhibition marking the one-year anniversary of the tragic Jagger Library fire at the Michaelis Galleries. The exhibition will open to the public on Wednesday, 20 April 2022.

Campus communications


Updates on Campus Fire


Campus communications

News and videos

Memories of Jagger Library – 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.

#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