University of Cape Town: Devastation as historic UCT buildings gutted by runaway fire

Mop-up operations are under way at the University of Cape Town (UCT), after a large-scale wildfire destroyed several historical buildings on UCT’s upper campus on Sunday, 18 April.

In light of this, the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, announced that all academic activities would be suspended until Wednesday, 21 April. No classes, tutorials, laboratory work or tests will take place for the next two days.

The fire is believed to have started on the slopes of Devil’s Peak on Sunday. It quickly spread to Rhodes Memorial before rapidly reaching UCT’s upper campus in Rondebosch. The extent of the damage to the affected UCT buildings is still unknown.

Devastation

“One of the buildings gutted by the runaway fire was the Jagger Reading Room, which forms part of the university’s Special Collections Library.”

One of the buildings gutted by the runaway fire was the Jagger Reading Room, which forms part of the university’s Special Collections Library.

UCT’s Special Collections consist of printed and audiovisual material on African studies and a wide array of other specialised subjects, as well as more than 1 300 sub-collections of unique manuscripts and personal papers. The collection of books and pamphlets exceeds 85 000 items on African studies alone, and the collection on African film is among the most extensive in the world, with over 3 000 films available for viewing and research.

The Jagger Reading Room was constructed in the 1930s and was named after one of UCT Libraries’ main benefactors. Initially, the building served as the university’s main library, and later as a short-loans centre, before officially becoming the African Studies Library’s reading room.

Evacuation

About 4 000 students were evacuated from residences on Sunday and placed at temporary accommodation sites across the city.

Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers has come on board to prepare students’ meals from Old Mutual’s offices in Pinelands. Once meals have been prepared, they are distributed to the various accommodation sites. The necessary arrangements have also been made to cater for Muslim students, who are observing the month of Ramadan.



“The UCT community extends its sincerest gratitude to members of the public for their generous donations.”

If you wish to contribute, please drop off essential items such as toiletries, clothes and food at the Old Mutual West Campus, 91 Jan Smuts Road, Pinelands, Cape Town. Alternatively, the institution has also set up a relief fund and welcomes all monetary donations.

The details are:

Account name: UCT Donations Account

Bank: Standard Bank of South Africa

Branch code: Rondebosch Branch, 025009

Account number: 07 152 2387

Swift code: SBZAZAJJ

The UCT community extends its sincerest gratitude to members of the public for their generous donations.

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