Arson behind fire that destroyed UCT buildings: Preliminary report

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Authorities at Table Mountain National Park have established that the fire that destroyed vegetation and historic buildings at the University of Cape Town (UCT) was started deliberately. SanParks today released the report following an investigation on the cause of the fire.

On Sunday April 18, the fire broke out at the foot of Table Mountain. Fanned by the strong winds, that changed direction at all times, the fire quickly spread to Rhodes Memorial, UCT, private homes along the M3 highway also damaging the iconic Mostert Mill in Newlands.

About 650 hectares of natural vegetation were destroyed.

Independent investigator, Rob Erasmus, has ruled out natural causes and accidental negligence as causes.  “We determined at this stage that the fire was wet with intent and that investigation is still ongoing. We do have a white vehicle of interest, that was seen at the scene very shortly before the fire started and we are busy investigating that further.”

The fire destroyed the Jagger Library:

Table Mountain National Park says over 40% of fires in the park are deliberate. Fire Manager at the Table Mountain National, Park Phillip Prince, says prosecutions are difficult as offenders quickly move away after starting the fires.

“If we refer to the statistics in terms of fires that were started by homeless people, that’s about 45%, if we talk of fires that were started deliberately, that was about 42%, so that’s the issues that we need to give attention to, to see what we can do, not only as Table Mountain National Park, it is not a table mountain issue, it is a wider issue when we talk about homeless people,” says Prince.

SanParks is offering a reward of R10 000 to anyone who can offer information about the white car seen on Philip Kgosana Drive at about nine o’clock that Sunday of the 18 April. No further information has been revealed of the details of the car or occupants.