A message of gratitude and encouragement

21 April 2021 | From the Chancellor

Dear UCT community and friends

We are engaging at a time of profound sorrow, and it has been difficult over the last few days to find the words to express the sorrow that we feel. But in the midst of this, I believe that we have a lot to be grateful for, considering that we are reflecting today without having to mourn the loss of any student or staff member.

Following this traumatic start to the week, I wish to thank all staff and especially our hands-on Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng and her executive team. To the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) and other student leaders, thank you for your bravery and swift action in ensuring the evacuation and wellbeing of all students.

After seeing the severe destruction that we are left to rebuild, and as we come to terms with the loss of part of our nearly 200-year* old library, it seems at this point in time, that walking the halls of this prestigious institution may never be the same again.

In the last five years the University of Cape Town (UCT) has devoted considerable amounts of effort and resources toward transformation. With these efforts, simultaneous strategies for environmental conservation and sustainability have intensified. Our outlook for UCT has been consistently forward looking, and everyone has made significant strides in aligning the growth and success of this institution with the evolving social and cultural perceptions that influence our society today.

While much has been lost, our focus now must be on rebuilding in order to maintain these strides that have been made. We now must set our sights on visualising the fertile ground that has been left behind and how we hope to build it back better. Our strategy for transformation and sustainability will guide us along this path.

UCT is now walking an unprecedented journey. Without examples to emulate and leaders to learn from, particularly on the continent, UCT has been afforded an opportunity to become the trailblazing standard in this regard. When history is destroyed, what we erect in its place will represent the beginning of a new era.

A lot needs to be done in the immediate and short-term in order to continue the academic year without further interruption. I have absolute faith in the UCT leadership team to overcome this period of tragedy and facilitate a sense of normalcy back into the lives of students and staff.

Looking ahead, we must take this current state that we find ourselves in and galvanise our advocacy and knowledge support for the local communities of Cape Town. While we are privileged enough to recover from this misfortune, there are many surrounding communities that would not recover as easily. Vagrancy is an assault on people’s dignity, and it is another social ill that has been intertwined to this destruction. Going forward, we must recognise that we are in a fitting position to add our voices into this discussion and we can initiate transformation that our internal community will feel and see even once they leave the institution.

Environmental considerations are imperative as we implement strategies to rebuild but it is also necessary that we use the wisdom generated by our community to assist others who are working on this cause on the ground. We often talk about the public benefit of university, and it is my hope that the public support that has been shown to the UCT community during this time has galvanised our stakeholder relations with the public.

Everyone here has shown such strength and determination over the last year, as we worked to resolve the effects of the pandemic. It is important that we don’t run out of steam now.

Our mission for progress and transformation has taken us on a route that we never expected. But the excellence that this acclaimed university represents is shaped by our own ingenuity, our own innovation and our resourcefulness.

We have been confronted with a reality that challenges us to recreate. This requires our creativity, our imagination, and the coming together of our diverse skillsets and talents. The excellence that we represent cannot, and will not, be destroyed.

Our institutional excellence is a result of our collective selves and I am confident that we will rise from this as a transformed institution that is recognised globally for its ability to overcome tragedy whilst still upholding academic quality and institutional honour.

Warm regards

Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe
UCT Chancellor

*Correction: As a distinct institution, UCT’s library is 110 years old. The first dedicated library, the Hiddingh Hall Library, was opened in 1911, with the JW Jagger Library (containing the Jagger Reading Room) opening as the main library in 1931. The Chancellor Oppenheimer Library succeeded the JW Jagger Library as the main library in 2001.

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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