Wits Junction runs dry

Students living at Wits University’s most expensive residence have entered day five of a waterless existence.

Over 400 students have been affected by the water shortage at Wits Junction, a student residence in Parktown. They have now been urged to use water sparingly due to a reliance on reserves.

The students living at the residence were busy with vacation work needed for their qualifications. They have been unable to cook, shower or drink water from their taps. Some of these hardships were alleviated on Sunday, July 17, 2022 when the dean of student affairs, Jerome September offered alternative accommodation and access to the Highfield dining hall.


“I was told that the issue had been resolved but because, for a number of days, we had been on the reserve system, that the reservoirs are empty, and it takes time for those to fill up,” September said to the frustrated students.

At the meeting on Sunday, September suggested that students be moved to vacant residences, which was rejected outright, with students demanding to be accommodated in hotels instead. While some students fetched meals from the dining hall at their convenience, others awaited placement at the alternative accommodation, placements which have yet to materialise for many.

Additional demands from the students included the removal of water tanks and mobile toilets that had been brought onto the premises for temporary relief. Hygiene, particularly for women, was cited as a reason for the rejection of the mobile toilets.

Mobile toilets provided for students to relieve themselves at the Parktown residence. Photo: Keamogetswe Matlala

A resident who requested to remain anonymous said they were not receiving value for their money at the Parktown residence, and communication throughout the crisis had not been satisfactory.

“I’m frustrated as a student because I’m paying R105 000 per year to live in this fancy res… We were not told about the water shortages so we couldn’t prepare in advance,” she said.

She said that she is expected to write her medical exams despite the crisis.

As the students grew agitated, they demanded answers to what could’ve gone wrong with the water supply. Dumisani Ngiba from the Wits Property Infrastructure and Management Division (PIMD) admitted to having failed to put contingency plans in place.

Ngiba said “We don’t have service providers with such equipment” to manually fill the reservoirs after which he said the reservoir system only allows input from the municipality.

[From left to right] Wits Junction cluster manager Faith Nkonyane, dean of student affairs Jerome September and a representative from the campus housing and residence life financial office among students at the emergency meeting. Photo: Keamogetswe Matlala

September had promised to have the matter resolved within 48 hours which lapsed on Tuesday, July 19. Technicians from Joburg water were yet to fix a valve identified to have been preventing water flow to the residence.

FEATURED IMAGE: Students queuing to fill their containers with water from a water tank after three days without water. Photo: Keamogetswe Matlala