CAPE Town: The raging wildfire that gutted the iconic Rhodes Memorial restaurant and damaged the microbiology lab at UCT is believed to have been started by a vagrant’s fire, according to Table Mountain National Park (TMNP). Pic supplied
CAPE Town: The raging wildfire that gutted the iconic Rhodes Memorial restaurant and damaged the microbiology lab at UCT is believed to have been started by a vagrant’s fire, according to Table Mountain National Park (TMNP). Pic supplied

UCT carries out two investigations into devastating fire

By Genevieve Serra Time of article published May 8, 2021

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Cape Town - UCT has indicated they are busy with two separate investigations of a fire which ravaged parts of their campus.

This would include a full occupational health and safety audit undertaken for insurance purposes and an internal investigation.

Two weeks ago, Environment, Forestry & Forestry & Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy said two separate investigations were under way to determine the cause, the liability and financial impact of Table Mountain Fire which damaged about 600 hectares of land and other historical sites such as the Mill, UCT and Rhodes Memorial.

She said the two independent investigations would be conducted by UCT, with an internal insight and SANparks after 4 000 students were left displaced.

Nombuso Shabalala, Head of the media liaison, communication and marketing department at UCT said their investigations were still under way after the fire on April 18.

She said students were still being housed in temporary accommodation due to damage at Smuts and Fuller residency which housed 400.

VOLUNTEERS form human chains to carry documents, artifacts and books from the basement of the Jagger Library after most of the building was destroyed in a fire. UCT and volunteers including high school learners spent the weekend trying to restore valuable academic resources, including books, manuscripts, and maps, housed at the institution's historical Jagger Library, as part of the #JaggerLibrarySalvage campaign. ARMAND HOUGH African News Agency (ANA)

She said UCT’s investigation would be guided by legal advice.

“The university is at present co-operating with its insurers, whose investigations into the events and consequences of the fire are at an early stage and remain ongoing.

“We are also conducting a full occupational health and safety audit that is a statutory responsibility.

“Furthermore, and separate from the investigation process initiated by the insurers, UCT will undertake its own investigation and will do so on the basis of legal advice obtained.

“This will be concluded in due course and will be considered by the University Council. South African National Parks, as our direct neighbour, and the City of Cape Town have also launched separate investigations. We will work closely with them in this regard.”

She said the university had mapped out a plan of action to deal with the aftermath of the blaze called# UCTFire recovery plan.

The plan was now in stage one which dealt with the the return of students to residency. “The university has developed a four-phase outline for the #UCTFire recovery plan.

“Phase one is almost completed, with the return of most of our students to residence (and the relocation of Fuller and Smuts students to temporary accommodation); the restoration of a safe campus environment; the resumption of the academic project as much as possible; and the ongoing salvaging of our precious archive materials in the HW Pearson Building and the Jagger Library.

“Students who are still housed in temporary accommodation due to the extensive damage to Smuts and Fuller Hall are around 400. The university continues to maintain a low-density campus and students access campus only if necessary.

“Students are currently on vacation for the first quarter of our academic year, they resume classes on May 10.”

SANParks spokesperson, Reynold Thakhuli, said they were unable to comment until the investigation was completed. “I will have to request that you await the release of the report. It makes perfect sense to receive a full report.’’

Matthew Field of UCT’s student representative council said donations had helped hugely to sustain displaced students: “All students except the Smuts and Fuller students have returned to res. The Smuts and Fuller students are being put up in hotels until other accommodation can be sourced by UCT.

“Donations collected went a long way to replacing whatever was damaged in the fire.”

Weekend Argus

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