South Africa

GROUNDUP

‘How are we going to survive without water?’ — Makhanda residents and Rhodes students up in arms

‘How are we going to survive without water?’ — Makhanda residents and Rhodes students up in arms
Makhanda residents picket outside the City Hall with Rhodes University students on Monday to demand a permanent solution to the water crisis. (Photo: Loyiso Dyongman)

Ayanda Kota, the leader of the Unemployed People’s Movement, said Makhanda residents were tired of discussing the water issue with senior officials without any resolution. He said they would intensify their protest action if the municipality does not respond timeously.

About 300 Rhodes University students joined Makhanda residents and civil society movements on Monday to march to the City Hall in a protest against the ongoing water crisis.

Groups joining the march, which was monitored by a strong police presence, included the Makana Civil Community Coalition and the Unemployed People’s Movement.

The protest started at Rhodes University’s Drostdy Arch at about 5am and moved to the Makana Municipality offices. The group’s main demand is for the city to resolve the water crisis.

In April, we reported how Makhanda residents queued to fill their containers at a water tanker provided by Gift of the Givers.  

The secretary of the Makana Residents Association, Tim Bull, recently told GroundUp that he believed that a dysfunctional municipal administration was to blame for the water crisis.  

On Monday, the municipal manager, Phumelelo Kate came out of his office and briefly addressed the crowd, promising that the municipality would respond to their demands within seven working days.

Ayanda Kota, the leader of the Unemployed People’s Movement, said Makhanda residents were tired of discussing the water issue with senior officials without any resolution. He said they would intensify their protest action if the municipality does not respond timeously. 

The protest began at Rhodes University and ended at the Makhanda City Hall. (Photo: Loyiso Dyongman)

Students speak out

A number of students we spoke to said they had missed lectures because there was no water to wash or do laundry.

Student Anazo Makhathini from Durban said she can’t afford to buy water with her NSFAS stipend. 

“How are we supposed to buy water with money meant to cover our needs as students? The municipality knows we depend on them. They also benefit from the university because we students boost the economy,” said Makhathini.

Craig Matthews from Cape Town said, “We are trying to voice our concern over this water crisis in Makhanda. It is the responsibility of the municipality to ensure that we have water. How are we going to survive without water?”

University spokesperson Velisile Bukula wrote that students had delivered a memo to Vice-Chancellor Sizwe Mabizela.

Bukula wrote that despite the student leaders’ assurances that the protest would not be disruptive, access to the campus was blocked in the morning and critical services like food and cleaning were disrupted. 

“As the university processes the issues raised by the students, the university leadership urges the SRC to allow unimpeded access to campus so that critical services can be rendered and for the academic programme to resume.”

In a statement on Monday, the municipality noted that there was an issue at the Howieson’s Poort dam. 

“A team of divers came to unblock any potential disruption. Although some debris and rusted metals were discovered, the blockage is still persisting.

“Amatola Water also dispatched a team on 7 May but to no luck. Further investigations are currently under way. It is regrettable that it’s taking so long as it is the first time such a problem occurs. Water will now be opened on Thursday, 11 May,” the statement read. DM

First published by GroundUp.

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