Rhodes University has reassured staff and students that it will remain open despite the ongoing water crisis in Makhanda.

Rhodes University has tampered down earlier warnings by the vice-chancellor that it would shut down due to the ongoing water crisis in Makhanda (Grahamstown). The university says it has introduced measures to deal with the shortage to ensure that the Rhodes community is provided with water.

Ilva Pieterse, the university spokesperson, told Wits Vuvuzela that the university had implemented several water-saving measures to try to alleviate the situation, such as: using smart water meters which allocate 10 litres of water per person for showering, providing residence students with buckets to collect and use greywater, withholding ‘unnecessary’ crockery and cutlery such as side plates, and halting the washing of windows and cars.

“In 2013, Grahamstown experienced a water crisis and we have been able to base our water outage plans on the experience we gained during that time,” said Pieterse.

“Engagements with experts who were involved in the Cape Town water crisis (CTC water management specialists, University of Stellenbosch, and provincial water experts) continues.”

Rhodes University vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela was quoted in a February 11 IOL article saying, “Rhodes University will have to close its doors” in the absence of a viable solution to the water crisis.
However, the university released a statement later that day saying that it was working with government organisations to prolong the current water supply.

“A plan has been developed for the time if and when Settlers Dam were to run dry, in which case treated water will be supplied to the entire city on a rotational basis from the Glen Melville Dam via the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works,” the statement read.

As of February 18, the dam levels at Settlers Dam in the Makana municipality were sitting at 12% with only 3% of the water being usable, according to the Makana municipality website.

Rhodes lecturer, Shepherd Mati, said that the water crisis was far worse than previous crises and that townships such as Joza and Fingo had been hit the hardest. “They have had water cut off for 3-4 days at a time,” he told Wits Vuvuzela.

“At this stage we have been very careful about using water even for washing because the water leaves brown stains on clothes from the [dam] residue. Even places like Pick ’n Pay which supply water now have tanks that are half full.”

Ayanda Kota, a representative of the Unemployed People’s Movement, which had campaigned for the disaster relief organisation, Gift of the Givers, to donate 15 000 bottles of water to Makhanda, said that municipal government mismanagement was just as responsible for the water crisis as was the drought.

“We have been in a drought for a long time. The infrastructure has collapsed since 2012 and there has been a problem of corruption since 2013. Money has been donated to the municipality that has disappeared.
“The municipality is in limbo. There are still people who have no vision, who are lazy, who don’t care, and poor leadership has resulted in problems not being fixed,” Kota told Wits Vuvuzela.

FEATURED IMAGE: Rhodes University says that they have implemented water saving measures to help deal with the ongoing crisis.
Photo: File