Notice to staff about fire

19 Apr 2021
19 Apr 2021

Dear colleagues,

I write to you with important updates about the devastating fire that reached our campus yesterday.

I want to start by expressing my relief that our students are safe and housed, and that all who were on campus were safely evacuated. The safety and well-being of our students and staff is the priority and will continue to be our chief concern.

Our thanks are due to the countless staff members and community at large who rallied to offer aid to students, be this in the form of accommodation study space or food.

We are also eternally grateful to the courageous firefighters and emergency responders who continue to battle the flames around our city. The fire was brought under control on our campus but it continues elsewhere on the mountain and towards the city.

I also want to thank all my colleagues who have scrambled to communicate deadline extensions with their students, which no doubt will have relieved some of the heavy mental toll left by yesterday’s events.

It is still early days, and we will only know the true cost of this disaster in the days ahead. However, the loss of many priceless treasures from the African Studies Library and Special Collections is a cause for grief. We will only know in the future what impact such losses will have on our work, but for now, an acknowledgement of our shared loss is all we can offer.

I understand that many staff members are fearful for their belongings that may remain in their offices. A team is currently assessing the full extent of the damages on Upper Campus. It is still not safe to go onto campus and most areas are not accessible, and we accept guidance from our emergency services on the matter of access.

The events that began yesterday are shocking, and should staff want to attend group trauma counselling sessions, you can contact your HODs for details. If you would like to contact a counsellor directly, the following services are standing by for you on a toll-free phone line:

  • SA Depression and Anxiety Group: 080 024 2526
  • ICAS: 080 111 3945

The Faculty also acknowledges that with the UCT Educare being closed, some staff members will be under more pressure at home. Please contact your line manager if you find yourself in this position, so that we may make arrangements that work for everyone’s benefit.

Similarly, if you live in an area that needs to be evacuated, please contact your line manager as soon as possible.

This is an evolving situation, and I encourage you to keep an eye on official UCT communication channels for accurate updates.

When the fires have finally been extinguished, we anticipate that the clean-up will take some time, and you will be duly updated. At the moment, no academic activities will take place today and tomorrow.

Once again, I thank you all for the solidarity you have shown as a community during this time of worry and fear, and I have faith that we will emerge from this ready to face the next phase as a united group.

Stay safe.

A/Prof Shose Kessi

Thumbnail pic of the remains of the Jagger Library by Ashraf Hendricks. Source: