By Thandisizwe Mgudlwa
In what is becoming a conspiracy story, the death of the 24 year old University of Cape Town student and inventor last December, Nkosinathi Nkomo, has taken South Africa by storm.
The Soweto-born Nkomo had invented a water purification system aimed at helping the drought crisis.
He was a third-year student at UCT, studying for his civil engineering degree.
By last October, his product and company, AquaRenu, was gaining prominence.
But more than a month later in December, Nkomo was dead after allegedly falling from a multi-storey building in Cape Town.
And then questions and conspiracy theories soon began to circulate.
Speaking on the sidelines of his funeral service in Orlando East, Soweto, the sowetan newspaper, captured his father Moses Ndimande saying Nkosinathi didn’t have to kill himself.
“He didn’t owe anyone anything. He had no debts or a bond that he was struggling to pay. The truth will come out one day as to what really happened on that fateful day,” Ndimande said.
Struggling to afford his UCT fees. Nkom launched AquaRenu.
It wasn’t long before he began making enough money to pay his fees.
Nkomo’s cousin told Sowetan in 2017, “Kau (Nkomo’s nickname) would do research and learn as much as he can about anything.”
At the time of Nkomo’s death, Western Cape police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut did appear to suspect any foul play regarding the 24 year-old inventor’s mysterious death.
“It’s been alleged that the deceased fell from the balcony of his fifth-floor apartment at the hotel. No foul play is suspected at this moment and an inquest case was registered for investigation purposes.”
AquaRenu, purifies grey water from the bathroom (shower, bathtub, and basin), and stores it to be used for irrigation and toilet flushing.
When Nkomo explained how his product works, he said: “We take the water that’s used in your bathroom, except the toilet, store it in a tank, remove all the dirt and automatically use it for your irrigation and flushing the toilet.
If you think about it, why do you need drinking water to flush your toilet when we have water problems. Why don’t you use the water you showered with to flush your toilet?
The system is automated, he said on Twitter: “This is an automatic process. You get on with your day to day life and it does everything for you.”
Nkomo was quoted by Cape Talk saying what he came up with is nothing new because grey water systems have been in existence for a while, but he wanted a system that was more affordable.
“We have managed to drop the costs even lower, the installation and delivery of the small system will cost you R4000 and the bigger unit cost R5000.”
Cape Talk also noted that, Nkomo’s studies for 2018 had been secured, as he had been given a scholarship by a UCT professor who does not want to be named.
According to Huffington Post South Africa, Twitter was abuzz on last Thursday February 8, 2018, as Western Cape premier Helen Zille got embroiled in yet another Twitter war.
Zille started the back-and-forth sparring by posting a tweet congratulating Retief Krige, a local who has invented a system to recycle greywater from the shower to the toilet cistern: a product he calls WaterLoo. Zille tweeted her appreciation at the product’s launch.
Congratulations Retief Krige, the industrial designer who created Waterloo, the quick and easy way of using your shower water to flush your loo. Affordable too! https://t.co/HOyBqAyDpp pic.twitter.com/PIuHFeeGMQ — Helen Zille (@helenzille) February 7, 2018
Other Twitter users found the timing of this product’s unveiling suspicious, following the death under mysterious circumstances of UCT student Nkosinathi Nkomo, who died last year shortly after creating a similar “affordable” greywater-recycling system of his own.
Conspiracy theorists cast aspersions, claiming that Krige’s invention was “convenient” following Nkomo’s death, all but accusing him of killing the man to steal his idea. Other critics noted that while Zille was present at Krige’s product launch, she had ignored the launch of Nkomo’s AquaRenu system – to which, it later turned out, she was never even invited.
Are you gonna recognize #BlackExcellence that is #NkosinathiNkomo ? pic.twitter.com/9NbwlBqPXi — #TheMasterPiece👸🏿…Album Coming (@ChulayoM) February 8, 2018
Speaking to Huffpost, Zille said the wild, unsupported allegations being made against Krige were unacceptable; that it was “outrageous to accuse other people of the most nefarious things”.
She said that she had read about both concepts, WaterLoo and AquaRenu, and that they were two quite different inventions. Many entrepreneurs are now getting into greywater systems, she pointed out, so it isn’t fair to just assume theft of ideas.
And if she had been invited to a launch of Nkomo’s AquaRenu, she insisted, she would certainly have attended, as she did when Krige invited her to the WaterLoo launch. She undertook to contact Nkomo’s surviving partners to learn more about AquaRenu.
Uhm! Why are acting like we don’t know that this was Nkosinathi Nkomos Idea? Sies on you Zille everyone knows about this it the headlines — IG: macco54 (@Macco_54) February 9, 2018
Replying to the Twitter attacks, Krige said that he had heard via social media about Nkomo’s design of a water-saving product, and that it was unfortunate that he had passed on.
But he is adamant that his WaterLoo greywater bank is very different from that designed by Nkomo – and that each would contribute in its own way towards a holistic water-saving solution.
“We trust that Mr. Nkomo’s business partners will bring his water-saving design to fruition, so that those affected by the drought can also benefit from what he had to offer towards water-saving,” Krige said.
@MbalulaFikile we can’t go on like this ppl mysteriously die n we just move, can we get some answers from the police n really where is nkosinathi’s phone so they could trace the number that called him so they can meet me or get his numbers from his family n trace dat number — da Vice (@vuvu_07) February 9, 2018
Nkomo’s system, AquaRenu, stores greywater from showers, bathtubs and basins to be used for irrigation and toilet flushing. The Soweto-born designer was a third-year civil engineering student at the time of his death, when he fell from the balcony of his fifth-floor flat at the Upper East Side Hotel.
Nkosinathi Nkomo a UCT student comes up with a brilliant water purification invention, he names AquaRenu it is aimed to assist the drought in Cape Town, he suddenly dies under mysterious circumstances. 3months later Retief Krige comes up with the same idea pic.twitter.com/0S0w7mhaRP — A$AP Othize (@Brain_Dogon) February 9, 2018
Hotel marketing executive Caroline Coates confirmed the incident at the hotel’s north apartment block, but would provide no further details.
“We cannot disclose what happened, but the case is with the police. We knew the young man, and it was unfortunate that he passed away,” Coates said.
Western Cape SAPS spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk told Huffpost that the case was on-going, but that no foul play was suspected.
“This office can confirm that an inquest case was registered for investigation. Kindly be advised that there are no new developments to report, investigations continues,” Van Wyk said.