Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Higher Education calls for probe into Cape Town fires

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Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Higher Education has called for a thorough investigation into the latest fires which caused some serious damage to several buildings at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

The 200-year-old Jagger Library which holds some important original source academic material has been affected.

Committee chairperson Philly Mapulane says they are also concerned about 4000 residence students. They have been accommodated at local hotels.

Mapulane has called on members of the public to continue lending a hand to firefighters and others affected by the fire. He says the fire will affect UCT’s 2021 academic programme.

Below is the full statement:

Jagger Library

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says UCT will need to source various experts to restore charred documents at the Jagger Library.

The DA has called on Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to ask Treasury for more funds to help with the process.

The party says some of the material at the library is very valuable and may have not have been digitised when the fires broke out at the weekend.

DA Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Chantal King, has welcomed swift action taken by UCT to evacuate students.

King has also applauded the assistance of humanitarian organisations such as Gift of the Givers. She also says rangers and firefighters have gone the extra mile to deliver as always in a crisis.

Video: UCT buildings damaged by Table Mountain fire


Western Cape Premier Alan Winde says he is proud of how the residents of Cape Town have come together to assist each other during a time of crisis, with the Table Mountain fire causing widespread destruction.

Speaking during a media briefing at UCT, Winde said it was sad that the institution had lost irreplaceable material from the Jagger Library and had suffered a lot of infrastructure damage due to the fire.

Winde says they are, however, grateful that there has been no loss of life.

“It could have been way worse. No loss of life. Then, of course, the people of this city, they are just amazing, how they just step up.  People were queuing at shops to buy water and energy bars. It’s quite phenomenal. Tons of stuff being dropped off at our fire stations. People opening their houses saying to students who had to be evacuated, I’ve got room for you.”

Cultural landscape

The Cape Town Heritage Trust says it is devastated to learn about the fire that has destroyed a large part of the cultural landscape of the Rhodes Estate.

The historic Tea Room next to the Rhodes Memorial, several buildings on the UCT main campus including the Jagger Library with its internationally significant collection of historic archival documents and books and the Fuller Hall residence have been ruined.

The Trust’s Laura Robinson says they are ready to assist in whatever manner they can and offers an opportunity for those who wish to donate towards the restoration of the buildings devastated by the fire.

She says donations can be made to the Cape Town Heritage Foundation, an arm of the Trust that holds funding in trust for such situations.

In the video below, UCT Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng says the university will recover:

Water bombing 
Five helicopters, three Huey type and two Oryx choppers are expected to resume aerial support in water bombing the fire raging on Table Mountain.

Authorities say by midnight  Monday night, the fire was still raging below and above Tafelberg Road.

SANParks spokesperson Raynolds Thakhuli says weather conditions seem good today for the aerial support.

The fire that been raging for three days has destroyed about six hundred hectares of vegetation.

Thakhuli says 90%  of the fire has been contained.

Additional reporting by Tanya Krause and Mlamli Maneli