Makhanda, in the Eastern Cape, could face Day Zero in the next 30 days if no substantial amount of rain falls in Makana Municipality.
Settlers Dam, which supplies the western side of Makhanda, has water levels currently sitting at 13%. The municipality predicts the water will only last for the next 30 days leaving the city without water.
Rhodes University and top schools such as St Andrews and Kingswood as well as major businesses are all found on the western side of Makhanda. Most of the activities of the National Arts Festival also take place in town. The 1820 Settlers Monument, situated on top of the city, is the venue for the Science Festival. If the city gets to Day Zero, this would be a major blow for the Makana Municipality. These two popular events contribute immensely to the local economy. The municipality is working round-the-clock to turn the situation around, with the hope that it will soon rain.
Newly-elected Mayor, Mzukisi Mpahlwa, says they have met with all stakeholders to find a solution.
“I had got the briefing from the municipal manager that there was a meeting of stakeholders particularly with experts from Rhodes, they have met, they have got the plan but they still have to present that plan to myself. So I am aware that there is something that is being done to mitigate the challenge that might happen.”
DA One Nation spokesperson, Pumzile Van Damme, who visited Settlers Dam, blames the municipality. She says the situation could have been avoided. She has called for government intervention.
“The municipality of Makhanda has not done what is supposed to do which is to inform residents to reduce water usage. This is something we faced as the Democratic Alliance in the City of Cape Town, but because of hard work seeking alternative water usage and campaign to inform residents to reduce water usage, Day Zero was averted. So a similar thing could have been done in Makhanda so that does not happen. We are calling the Department of Water and Sanitation to make Makhanda a top priority.”
Rhodes University, which is expected to welcome First Year students in February, might be affected by Day Zero. It’s also involved in negotiations to find a solution. However, Executive Director of Infrastructure, Dr Iain L’Ange, is hopeful that the academic year won’t be affected.
“We are very close with Makana Municipality to make sure the plan for once Day Zero arrives is fully in place and operational. I’m confident if everything is put in place and operational and I’m confident if everything is put in place and all the signs are put in place effectively and efficiently that we will be able to continue with our academic operations.”
One of the possible solutions, should Day Zero happen, is to divert water from the James Kleynhans dam which supplies the township to the western side of the city. The dam produces 10 megalitres of water a day while the demand is 20 megalitres a day for the whole city.
Makhanda is currently experiencing water outages as there’s only one functioning pump out of the three at James Kleynhans Dam. This has affected residents:
“It passes two days there is no water and we usually share a bucket of 20 litres and we are a family of six or of seven at our houses, so it’s affecting us a lot. And then the next day when the water comes back, it’s dirty and you can’t even cook with it or you can’t bath with it.”
“We have water it’s horrible, it’s dirty water like the dam water, we can’t use it for eating,” say residents.
The Makhanda Municipality is expected to hold a briefing on Monday to outline its plans to save the situation.
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