Two Eastern Cape university campuses closed over water shortages

The University of Fort Hare's Alice campus and the Walter Sisulu University's (WSU) campus in Butterworth have shut down because of unreliable water supplies amid a prolonged strike by municipal workers.

"All Alice-based students and staff are advised to take a few days break from their normal routine and use this time to refresh and re-energise for the last quarter of the 2019 academic year," said University of Fort Hare's Vice Chancellor Prof Sakhela Buhlungu.

The university is hoping that the water crisis will be resolved by Friday and that academic activities and other work on-campus will resume on Monday, August 19. 

In the meantime, WSU Vice Chancellor Professor Rob Midgley in Butterworth announced it too was closing over an unreliable water supply in the town that led to residents going on to the campus in search of water.

"The Butterworth Community has embarked on protest action in respect of water supply to the town," said Midgley. 

"In the process, community members have invaded the university’s Butterworth Campus, initially to access water. 

"The situation has escalated however, and community members are now encouraging students to join their protest and in so doing, they are destroying the university's water supply system and various water containers on the campus.

"Police have not been able to control or curtail the damage."

Midgley said the lack of a reliable water supply, and the protest has created a situation which poses health and physical safety dangers to staff and students. 

"I hereby declare the Butterworth Campus closed with immediate effect until further notice," said Midgley.

"All staff and students are instructed to leave the campus immediately and to go back home." 

Meanwhile the Amathole District Municipality, which encompasses Butterworth and Alice, tweeted that a deal to end the strike had been agreed to on Monday, and asked for patience as it recovers from the strike action. 

This also means that water will still be rationed.

The municipality said it had been delivering water supplies by tankers. It alleged that plants had been tampered with and supplies switched off by "ill-disciplined workers". 

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