UCT fire: Students return to campus

22 April 2021 | Story Carla Bernardo. Photos Lerato Maduna, Jean Claude Nsabimana. Director Malik Ntone Edjabe. Videography Astroclutter Films & Oatmeal Productions. Video Edit Astroclutter Films. Read time 3 min.
Displaced UCT students started returning to campus on Thursday, 22 April.

Students from the University of Cape Town (UCT) began departing emergency accommodation sites on Thursday morning as the process for a return to campus was under way, following the recent fires that affected the Rondebosch campus and surrounds.

As the university welcomed back students, those who reside in Smuts Hall and Fuller Hall – both residences located on upper campus – began collecting their belongings ahead of their move to temporary accommodation sites organised by the university.

Residence staff were back at work and ready to welcome students with hot and hearty meals.

Collaborative effort

The return to campus follows a massive collaborative effort to relocate students who were evacuated from UCT residences on Sunday. Staff members, the Students’ Representative Council, fellow students and hotels across the city worked together to ensure displaced students were accommodated.

Staff at UCT’s Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) and their neighbours at Protea Hotel by Marriott Cape Town Waterfront Breakwater Lodge were instrumental in the immediate moments following the evacuation, becoming the main port of call for displaced students. On Sunday, they took in 600 students, and on Monday, a further 450 to 500 arrived.

Initially, four hotels stepped forward to assist the university: Protea Hotel by Marriott Cape Town Waterfront Breakwater Lodge, The Westin Cape Town, Protea Hotel by Marriott Cape Town Victoria Junction, and Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Cape Town. That number quickly grew to more than 20 hotels across the city.

While the relocation to emergency accommodation sites was under way, firefighters worked around the clock to douse the flames, and disaster response organisation Gift of the Givers prepared meals and coordinated donations. Their work was enabled by Old Mutual, who opened their facilities as a base at no charge. Corporates such as Shoprite and Checkers, Spur, Engen, The Foschini Group and Nestlé all stepped in to help.

Cape Town residents, and citizens from across the country, were quick to offer support – from donating food and hygiene packs, to providing transportation for delivery there was no limit to the kindness and generosity shown.

The return to campus will continue throughout the day on Thursday, and the university remains vigilant about the ongoing threat of COVID-19. Protocols will continue to be observed: face masks will be worn at all times, a safe social distance of 1.5 m will be kept and regular handwashing will be adhered to.


Students are reminded that the university’s Student Wellness Service (SWS) remains available to those who require assistance. In response to the fires and the overall health implications thereof, UCT’s Department of Students Affairs and the SWS set up satellite medical service points at temporary accommodation sites. These services remain available to students and bookings can be made online or via email (sws@uct.ac.za).

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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