It took an intervention from President Jacob Zuma’s office for water to be restored to Rhodes University – which was on the brink of closing late last week.
Situated in Grahamstown, the university had been without water for weeks, making taking a shower and doing laundry impossible, and forcing the presidency to act.
At least 46 residences were without water and thousands of students and academic staff were affected, including parts of Grahamstown.
Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj confirmed the intervention by the presidency to City Press.
“A member of the public brought the matter to the attention of the presidency on August 15 2013 … The presidency also informed the Department of Water Affairs that there was a water problem at Makana Municipality and they immediately dispatched a team to Makana to assist the municipality and the university.
“The department has advised the presidency that they are looking at both the short-term and long-term solutions,” Maharaj said.
“The municipality is looking at procuring new pumps as the two existing pumps, which were purchased in 1962, will continue to give problems. The presidency has also been advised that a permanent water truck has been provided to Rhodes University and that the municipality continues to service the community with water trucks.”
The intervention comes after Rhodes principal and Vice-Chancellor Dr Saleem Badat wrote an open letter to the Makana Municipality, which was copied to the department of higher education and training.
Badat also led a protest march of students, academics and Grahamstown residents to deal with the water crisis.
In his open letter, Dr Badat said: “It is with great dismay that we are compelled to write this open letter and draw attention to the utter failure of our municipality to deal effectively and efficiently with the crisis in water provision at our university and parts of the town.”
He said what had them worried the most was that it had not been the first time this had happened as they went through a similar situation in March, where the institution was without water for an extended period and came closing to closing down.
In a subsequent statement on the institution’s website, Badat expressed gratitude that the matter had received attention from the highest office and thanked those who participated during the march.
“The march has had some positive results. Most importantly, the water is flowing again to the residences and other buildings.
“The minister of higher education and training has taken up the matter with relevant cabinet ministers, and the presidency contacted us to assure us that the matter would receive attention,” Badat said.
Maharaj said the presidency reacted swiftly after recognising the seriousness of the matter.
“The presidency is pleased that it was able to assist in resolving a serious problem that was affecting the community and the university,” said Maharaj.
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