UCT fire: Deputy minister Buti Manamela visits campus

26 April 2021 | Story Stephen Langtry. Photos Je'nine May. Read time 3 min.
Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Buti Manamela visited UCT in the wake of the recent fire that destroyed some of the university’s buildings.

Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Buti Manamela visited the University of Cape Town (UCT) on Saturday, 24 April. This was in the wake of the recent runaway fire that destroyed parts of UCT’s upper campus.

Manamela was accompanied by a delegation which included Professor Ramneek Ahluwalia, the chief executive officer of Higher Health, an agency mandated by the Department of Higher Education and Training to safeguard student health and well-being in post-school education; and Anuysha Naidu, the executive manager of Higher Health.

They were welcomed by UCT Chair of Council Babalwa Ngonyama, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng and other members of the executive.

The delegation was led on a tour to view some of the UCT buildings damaged in the fire. These included the Jagger Reading Room, the HW Pearson Building, the Smuts Hall student residence, Cadboll House and La Grotta.

The delegation assessing the damage at Cadboll House.
The delegation assessing the damage at Cadboll House.

The tour included an opportunity to engage with library staff and volunteers who were salvaging material from the Jagger Reading Room. The delegation was informed that about 20 000 pages of manuscripts from the 1870s, which recorded accounts of the indigenous people of the Cape, were saved from the fire thanks to the library’s fire-protection infrastructure. The documents sustained some water damage and will need to be restored.

Students successfully evacuated

Manamela commended the UCT team for how they had responded to the fire. It was particularly significant that no lives were lost, he said, and that 4 000 students were successfully evacuated from their residences during the emergency.

Professor Ahluwalia handed over a donation from Higher Health for distribution to students affected by the fire. These items included toiletries and medication. Addressing the vice-chancellor, he said: “Your leadership is very inspiring because you prioritised saving lives. The resilience of a university is only seen at the time of a severe crisis.”

Higher Health is also concerned about the mental health of the students affected by the tragedy and is providing counselling and debriefing sessions.

Manamela said that he was pleased to hear that “inasmuch as the fire was a tragedy, it was also an opportunity to reimagine the university, especially the library and the residences”. He conveyed the well wishes of Dr Blade Nzimande, the education minister, to the university community.

Ngonyama thanked the delegation for taking the time to visit the campus. “We are looking at our strengths that were highlighted by this crisis; we are looking at our weaknesses, where the gaps are, and we will be closing those gaps so that we can do even better in the future.”


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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