Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, has welcomed the swift response of emergency services to contain a fire that gutted sections of the University of Cape Town (UCT) on Sunday.
The campus became a casualty of a raging inferno that started above the Philip Kgosana Drive in the game camp area between UCT and the busy Hospital Bend junction near Groote Schuur Hospital.
In a statement on Monday, Nzimande commended the timely response by the UCT Council and Management to find alternative accommodation for 4 000 affected students and the decision to suspend all the academic activities on Monday and Tuesday.
This was all while the university assessed the situation and damage to the institution’s property.
“This decision is important because the safety of students and staff remains our utmost importance,” said the Minister.
In the statement, he wished those in hospital a speedy recovery.
The Minister expressed sadness at how the fire destroyed the iconic African Studies Library, the memorial restaurant, and the UCT’s upper campus where boarding students reside.
“The African Studies Library houses the African National Congress archives and record of the underground publications. This library is also repository of the Bleek Lloyd collection of recorded stories and notebooks of their engagement with the /Xam and !Kun Cape San people of the mid-19th century, as well as original copies of pioneering isiXhosa newspapers like Imvo ZabaNtsundu, amongst others,” said Nzimande.
The Minister has directed Higher Health to work with other emergency relief agencies to offer students debriefing support and that Higher Health’s mobile clinic, and psychologists support the UCT in-house team for psycho-social services in order to further support students.
Higher Health is an agency of the Department of Higher Education and Training that is responsible for promoting the health and wellbeing of students across South Africa’s public universities and technical and vocational training colleges.
Nzimande thanked the private sector and government departments and agencies who assisted the university in managing the after-effects of the blaze.
The Minister has further called on the more participation of the private sector to support the #UCTFire emergency relief fund.
The public can donate essential items and food to students at Old Mutual West Campus, 91 Jan Smuts Road, Pinelands, Cape Town. Items must be sealed, in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.
Financial donations can be made to (donor names can be included as references):
Account name: UCT Donations Account
Bank: Standard Bank of South Africa
Branch code: Rondebosch Branch, 025009
Account number: 07 152 2387
Swift code: SBZAZAJJ