AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MAYOR, THE MUNICIPAL MANAGER AND THE MAKANA
14 August 2013
Rhodes University views itself as an integral part of the Makana region and
the Eastern Cape. We are willing to shoulder responsibility in the search
for collective solutions to problems that confront our community.
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 town.
Since 6 August 2013 and for the past nine days, parts of Rhodes University,
including 11 residences that house over 1000 students and wardens, have been
without water. As this open letter was being written yesterday afternoon, 35
additional residences and various other parts of the university were also
This is not the first time this year that we, the Rhodes University
community, have been without water. Earlier this year, in March, we were
without water for an extended period. Indeed, we came close to shutting down
the university for health and safety reasons.
Now, once again, we are faced with the crisis of hundreds of our students
and staff without drinking water, which the university has to supply. There
is no water for personal ablutions, for cleansing, for flushing toilets.
Conditions in the residence toilets are dire, with growing health concerns.
We are again on the brink of having to close the University. Despite the
valiant efforts of our staff and the great fortitude of our students we
cannot cope any longer. Can you at all imagine the chaos that will occur if
the university has to close its doors? Or the economic impact that this will
have on the town, which is highly reliant for its economic well-being on the
Section 27 of our Constitution states that Everyone has the right to have
access to sufficient food and water. Our constitutional right to sufficient
water has been and is being violated. It is thus necessary for us to act as
concerned citizens in defence of our right to sufficient water.
We are compelled to peacefully mobilise ourselves as a university and
community because we are angry, very angry: at the indignity that we must
suffer being without water; at the seeming lack of care of the Municipality;
and at the lack of communication from the Municipality.
We are aware that we are not the only people who are angry - other residents
in Makana who face water outages and suffer the same indignity are also
angry. Many of them have not had water for many months!
We feel we are being treated like second-class citizens, which is not
acceptable in our hard fought for and won democracy. So we are now
mobilising in defence of our constitutional rights as citizens.
We, the residents, households and institutions of Makana, have a right to
water. We dutifully pay municipal rates in the expectation that all citizens
shall have access to safe and clean water. Rhodes itself pays over R2.5
million a month in rates and service charges. We expect the Municipality and
its elected councillors to honour this right as servants of the community.
We can no longer remain silent in the face of these violations of our
rights, to stand mute any longer as the crisis deepens, nine days into the
water outage and with new parts of Rhodes now without water.
We must now act. In marching today to your offices, we seek to indicate that
we have borne the numerous water supply outages and problems with great
patience and resolve. We also wish to make visible our frustration and
Above all, we wish to submit our demand for a responsive Municipality that
takes seriously the provision of basic services to all residents. We demand
that the Municipality give us a clear plan and a timetable for resolving the
crisis of water provision.
As is well known to you, Rhodes University has many years sought to work
with the Municipality. Indeed, we are in regular contact. We have constantly
pledged our knowledge, expertise and skills so as to safeguard basic
services and promote local economic and social development.
We, as a university, again pledge any support that may be required by the
Municipality and that the university can reasonably offer with the express
aim of resolving the crisis. This is our social responsibility, as a
knowledge institution and the largest institution and employer in the town.
But, like today, when necessary we will also not hesitate to march, to
demonstrate, to demand answers, demand better performance, and demand that
you be responsive and accountable to residents. This is in defence of the
rights enshrined in our Constitution to which we are all bound as a nation.
It is time for you, our municipal leaders, to demonstrate leadership and
accountability to us, your constituents, and to give your full attention to
the problems of basic services that are crippling our town and compromising
the promise of a better life for all.
Rhodes University also calls for intervention at the highest level of
government. We request an urgent investigation at the provincial and
national government levels into water supply and water quality in Makana. We
call upon the ministers of Higher Education and Training, Public Works,
Water Affairs and Provincial and Local Government and the Eastern Cape MEC
for Local Government to ensure that water security in Makana is secured for
current and future generations.
The Minister of Higher Education & Training The Director General of the
Department of Higher Education & Training
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