09/02/2018 12:41 GMT | Updated 09/02/2018 14:08 GMT

Zille Battles Twitter Conspiracy Theorists Over Greywater Inventions

Some Twitter users think a new water-saving invention was stolen from a now-deceased UCT student, but the Western Cape premier vehemently disagrees.


Twitter was abuzz on Thursday, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.