[DEBATE] : (Fwd) More reports from Joburg court on Soweto water war
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Tue Dec 4 09:58:13 GMT 2007
Phiri residents hoping for a miracle
December 03, 2007, 17:30
Residents of Phiri in Soweto are hoping that the Johannesburg High Court
will rule in their favour. The residents and others affected by prepaid
water meters are challenging the City of Johannesburg, Johannesburg
Water and the Department of Water and Forestry for unlawfully installing
prepaid water meters unilaterally.
Advocate Wim Trengove has told the court that the prepaid meters were
imposed on the residents. He also said that the installation of these
meters violated residents' right to the access of sufficient water. He
added that while Phiri residents were being forced to pay for their
water before using it, richer people are allowed to use the water first
and to pay later.
Johannesburg Water is not the only respondent in this case. The City of
Johannesburg and the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry will also
be making their submissions over the next three days. Experts say that
although there are five applicants in this case, it has enormous
significance for all of South Africa because of its constitutional
04 December 2007
City failed in duty to give water to all, court told
Legal Affairs Correspondent
THE state had a duty to progressively ensure sustainable access to water
services — a duty that had been breached by the City of Johannesburg’s
introduction of prepaid water meters in Phiri, Soweto, the Johannesburg
High Court heard yesterday.
Five unemployed residents of Phiri launched an application that sought
to declare that the city and Johannesburg Water’s policy of
disconnecting their water supply and the forced installation of prepaid
water meters was unconstitutional.
They also seek to review and set aside the city and Johannesburg Water’s
decisions to set the amount of free water at 6kl a month for each stand .
Alternatively, the residents want Johannesburg Water be ordered to
provide each applicant and other indigent residents of Phiri with a free
basic water supply of 50l a person each day; and the option of a metered
supply installed at the cost of the City of Johannesburg.
Wim Trengove, counsel for the residents, said the installation of meters
was a regressive step by the city. “For rich people, this would not
matter ... For poor people, this is a very serious matter. Water runs
out on the 12th of each month, no matter how sparingly it is used,”
He said the residents were challenging the use of prepaid water meters
by the city and its supplying structure, Johannesburg Water, not merely
the system’s introduction in Phiri.
“They are particularly unlawful where the consumer has not voluntarily
chosen to use a pre-paid water meter rather than a credit meter.”
In her affidavit, applicant Lindiwe Mazibuko said that before March 17
2004, all 20 members of her household had had access to a full-pressure,
unmetered, unlimited water supply for which a flat-rate charge of up to
R68,40 was levied.
She said the system was altered on March 17 2004. A field worker from
Johannesburg Water came to her home and told her the old secondary
midi-block water supply system was “old and rusty” and would be replaced.
“This facilitator told me unequivocally he would merely replace old and
rusty equipment. He did not tell me the flat-rate water system would be
“He specifically did not mention anything about installing a prepayment
water meter system,” Mazibuko said.
Trengove said the city and Johannesburg Water’s contention that the law
did not oblige them to provide free basic water to the poor was wrong.
He said sections 27(1)(b) and 27(2) of the constitution imposed a duty
on them to provide free basic water to the poor people of Johannesburg.
Section 27(1)(b) gave everyone the right “to have access to” sufficient
It meant it must be possible for everyone to obtain sufficient water. He
said if water was available only at a price, then those who could afford
it had access to it while those too poor to pay for it would not have
Trengove said the poor could not be said “to have access” to water that
was available to them only at a price they could not afford to pay.
He said section 27(2) of the constitution obliged the state to take
reasonable legislative and other measures, within available resources,
to achieve the progressive realisation of the right to have access to
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