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Dear members of the UCT community,

As we consider the progress and long-term effects of COVID-19, I invite you to think further into the future, when we can begin to put our country back on track to growth. The process of rebuilding will require energy, creativity, commitment and resilient minds – all qualities that you can find in University of Cape Town (UCT) students, staff and alumni. When our students complete their programmes of study, they will be able to begin contributing to the restoration of not only this country and this continent, but the rest of the world. As stakeholders and supporters of UCT, we have a privilege and a responsibility to help build that future now.

When the UCT executive first heard news of the outbreak of the pandemic in South Africa, we set up the COVID-19 UCT Emergency Fund to assist in the fight against the virus and its impact on the UCT community. This fund has so far helped with needs such as providing transportation for students who needed to return home ahead of lockdown, disinfecting buildings as they were vacated, sourcing laptop computers and arranging their delivery to needy students, providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to essential staff members who needed to remain on campus, and purchasing data bundles for students who are able to study online at home, to name a few. The laptops alone have incurred a total cost of about R16.4 million.

When the lockdown is lifted and students and staff start returning to campus, the COVID-19 UCT Emergency Fund will help to provide for other needs, such as PPEs to ensure their safety.

I know you share in my belief in higher education, because so many of you have taken the initiative to support UCT in responding to this pandemic. Your support now will help to ensure that this important institution continues to play an important role in the growth of South Africa.

My own commitment to UCT’s future is so strong that I have committed 20% of my salary to the COVID-19 UCT Emergency Fund for a three-month period. This is above and beyond my regular monthly donation of 10% of my salary to the Mamokgethi Phakeng Scholarship Fund (which was set up when I took office in July 2018) and my contributions towards my Adopt-A-Learner education trust and other initiatives since before I joined UCT. I mention this to underscore how important higher education is to the growth of South Africa and all countries where poverty and inequality dominate. It has been proven that the path out of such great need is through higher education. And now, more than ever, we need to ensure that South Africa stays on that path.

I am grateful to others who share this commitment to higher education, because rebuilding the country is so clearly a team effort. UCT’s Chancellor, Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, led by example late last month by announcing the donation of R5 million by the Motsepe Foundation to help the university manage its multifaceted response to the pandemic. I also want to acknowledge the UCT alumni and staff members who have pledged to support the COVID-19 UCT Emergency Fund, along with the generous contributions of African Bank (R100 000), Community Chest (R100 000), the Harry Crossley Foundation (R185 000), the Stella and Paul Loewenstein Trust (R50 000), Mr Daniel Maseko (R100 000), Mr Trevor Norwitz (R100 000) and Willis Towers Watson (R600 000).

Even a small contribution can make a big difference. By giving to the COVID-19 UCT Emergency Fund, you will become part of a heroic support community that so far has succeeded in raising donations and pledges totalling R6,8 million, according to the donations barometer on the Development and Alumni Department (DAD) home page.

The COVID-19 UCT Emergency Fund demonstrates solidarity and a strong commitment to supporting the most vulnerable members of the UCT community. I invite you to pledge your support today.

Any amount will go a long way towards helping our students complete their academic studies so that the UCT community can contribute to the restoration of our country. While the pandemic has placed new demands on everyone, the need to build towards the future is so strong that I have no hesitation in asking for your support.

COVID-19 UCT Emergency Fund donations can be made in the UK through the UCT Trust.  Please go to http://ucttrust.org.uk/donate/ or contact uct-trust@tecres.net.

Thank you for your support.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
Vice-Chancellor