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.
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/HOyBqAyDpppic.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.
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.