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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Chancellor’s Installation and Inaugural Address


On Friday, 10 December 2021, the University of Cape Town installed its sixth Chancellor, Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe.

The Chair of Council of the University of Cape Town
Ms Babalwa Ngonyama
has the pleasure of inviting you to watch the installation and inaugural address of UCT’s Chancellor
Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe.

This event took place from 11:00 on Friday, 10 December 2021.

“The chancellor is the titular head of the university and presides at graduation ceremonies, confers degrees, and awards diplomas and certificates in the name of the university. The role of chancellor requires an individual of stature with exceptional personal qualities and integrity.”
– Chair of UCT Council

Previous UCT Chancellors

Today we are installing Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe as the sixth Chancellor of the University of Cape Town. We honour our previous Chancellors in this historical photo gallery:

Ceremony order of proceedings

The items collected together in this section of the feature page will help you to easily follow the order of proceedings during the ceremony.

Duly elected

On 30 August 2019, Sipho M Pityana, then Chair of Council at UCT, was proud to announce that Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe had been duly elected as the new chancellor of the university, a position that she would take up from 1 January 2020. The new chancellor was elected by an electoral college consisting of holders of UCT qualifications, academic and PASS (professional, administrative support and service) staff, and students.


The chancellor is elected for a 10-year term and Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe’s term started on 1 January 2020. She has embraced the role, even as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in early 2020 and gained momentum in the months that followed.


“As I took up the reins as Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT) last year, I was inspired by the example the institution set during the pandemic and lockdown crisis. I saw the resolve of Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng and her colleagues to continue to care for their students and each other while lockdown forced everyone to remain at home. I saw the students’ resolve to continue their degree programmes, even under conditions of hardship.”
– Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, UCT Chancellor
from her welcome message in UCT’s Year in Review 2020 publication

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