UCT takes up fight against crime after deaths of five students in two months

08 October 2019 - 10:44 By Nonkululeko Njilo
UCT vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng has urged students and staff members to use counselling support provided by the university after the recent deaths of five students.
UCT vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng has urged students and staff members to use counselling support provided by the university after the recent deaths of five students.
Image: Esa Alexander

 Vice-chancellor for the University of Cape Town (UCT), Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng, has vowed to take up the fight against crime after the deaths of five students in less than three months. Two of the students were murdered, one died in a car crash, one died at home after an illness and the fifth died off campus of unknown causes. 

“We have gone through an unusual period during which we lost five of our students. While the passing of just one student is difficult to come to terms with, we have had to endure five student deaths since late August,” said Phakeng.  

She said the university’s executive had recognised the effect the deaths had had on current students, close friends and classmates.   

“Even if we did not know the students personally, we are still deeply affected as a community. We want to acknowledge the challenges students and staff face as they grapple with this devastating loss of young lives – lives that promised to make a meaningful impact on our society,” she said.

Among the five deaths which hit the university were those of  of Uyinene Mrwetyana, who was raped and murdered inside a post office, and Cebo Mbatha, who was stabbed on Clifton Beach. 

“The terrible circumstances surrounding their deaths only adds to the psychological challenge we face in accepting their deaths and finding ways to deal with our loss. Even though these tragic crimes occurred off campus, it makes us all feel a sense of fear and anger. We will continue taking up the fight against crime in Cape Town and South Africa,” said Phakeng.

Another student, Nicole Heynes, died at home two weeks ago following an illness.   

Two students died last Tuesday, Sonja Canto in a car accident in Namibia, and Lufuno Nathan who died off campus of unknown causes, according to the university.

Phakeng said the university was helping the students' families.

 “We are assisting the families of these students and will be preparing an 'in remembrance' message for Lufuno, as we do for all UCT students and staff who pass away – our small way of honouring their lives.”

Students and staff were urged to use counselling support provided by the university.

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