The town of Makhanda in the Eastern Cape is on the verge of Day Zero with citizens urgently seeking assistance from relief organisation Gift of the Givers.

According to the NGO, municipal manager and other members of the council have confirmed the crisis with the speaker of the municipality making a heartfelt plea for assistance to the organisation.

“The mayor, council members and management team will wait at the gates of the town for your trucks. We will graciously accept whatever assistance you can offer. Our situation is desperate. We’ve had no water for 6 days already. We need your help” the speaker of the municipality told Gift of the Givers.

The situation on the ground is dire with the Settlers Dam sitting on only 13% and according to the organisation water cannot be extracted from the last 10% due to high silt levels, effectively leaving the dam with 3% reserves.

Water treatment woes

In addition the Waainek Water Treatment Works, which receives water from the very much smaller Howiesons Poort Dam, has been experiencing problems with its pumping capacity due to an electrical failure putting the plant out of commission for a few days.

“However, with rapidly dropping water levels in Howiesons Poort Dam, the Waainek Water Works will essentially shutdown,” the Gift of the Givers says.

The James Kleynhans Water Works, which is the only feasible back-up to the Waainek Water Works, is also currently compromised because of high levels of mud from the Fish River.

“Currently 80000 people in parts of Makhanda east and 19 streets in Makhanda West are without water. The municipality and residents are using water tankers and bottled water to compensate but the shortfall is huge,” the Gif of the Givers notes.

Meanwhile Rhodes University Vice Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, says that in the absence of reasonable water sources, “Rhodes University will have to close its doors”.

Emergency water on route

Gift of the Givers says its trucks are currently loading water and are set to depart from Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban with hundreds of tons of bottled water in this week.

“Dr Gideon Groenewald, Gift of the Givers specialist hydrologist, geologist, palaentologist, will engage the municipality to see what sustainable alternatives could be found in the immediate to medium term as work continues to double the capacity of the James Kleynhans Water Works to 20 Megalitres by 2020,”the organisation says.