DUT's water crisis

2010-02-04 00:00

THE water crisis at the Durban University of Technology’s Indumiso campus has resulted in the university management applying for a court interdict to compel the Msunduzi Municipality to restore the water.

The campus has shared one water account with the neighbouring Further Education and Training College and Sukuma High School in Imbali since the days of the premises being used as a nursing college.

Msunduzi Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo told The Witness while visiting the university’s two campuses with the Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande last week that R14 million was owed on the account and no engagements had been forthcoming from these parties to have this settled.

However, both the DUT and the Education Department claim to have made efforts to have the matter resolved, but have been unsuccessful.

A spokesperson from the department last week told The Witness that R4 million had been paid towards this account.

Again, Mbali Thusi yesterday said as far as their chief financial officer is concerned, they were up to date with their payments, adding that only the municipality could answer as to what is going on.

Meanwhile, DUT claims to have paid half a million rand towards the account.

Professor Reggie Ngcobo, the executive director at the DUT’s Midlands Campus, said the municipality refused their second payment last week, unless it was the full amount.

According to Ngcobo, their academic programme should be in full swing, but they are forced to suspend classes until this water issue has been resolved.

He said he was worried that, coming on top of a short year because of the FIFA Soccer World Cup, their students are the ones being prejudiced.

“We have a six-week-long holiday coming up, but we need water to carry on. We have residents and without water we can’t move.”

He added some of the students are refusing to leave the residences, which could result in an outbreak of diseases.

According to Ngcobo, they brought in engineers last week to help them identify their individual pipes for reconnection, but no plan was available on the system.

These pipes, he said, are identified through a radio detector, but since they have not had water, this has not been possible.

“Our plea is that they temporarily reconnect the water so that we can have the students back and we are able to get our independent pipes. It doesn’t mean that we won’t pay. All we ask is to be given a chance to get our ducks in a row. The learners are the sufferers here. It serves the institution no use for us to be here and not to have students on board.”

Roy Bridgmohan, the deputy municipal manager for finance, said he was not prepared to give comment on the matter, adding that it was sub judice.

Ngcobo urged students to remain at their homes until they are advised to return to campus when lectures resume.

Meanwhile, the FET College had to close early yesterday after the municipality came and removed the valves at the campus.

The Witness understands that while the water was cut off for all three of these institutions, the college has had water for the past week-and-a-half. It is alleged that someone in the college illegally tampered with the connection.

A source told The Witness that the toilets were already a disgusting sight and the college’s security had locked them to prevent further use.

According to the source, the staff understands that the college specifically owes the municipality R3,5 million.

“A big concern is that you have between 300 to 400 students coming from far and have paid their money, but have no water. One, it is illegal to keep them there because in an instance of fire what will happen? They have to go onto Edendale road to use taps alongside the road to get water.”

Gavin Bower, a senior lecturer at the College, said the challenge with closing the college is that, unlike DUT, they run trimester and semester courses and they can’t afford to lose time.

He said they start with their exams in March and have only had two weeks of teaching.

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