International Sign -on Letter of Protest Against Pre-paid Water

Friday 14 September 2007

We are writing because it has come to our attention that Johannesburg Water in partnership with Suez is in effect violating one of the most celebrated achievements of South Africa’s transition to democracy. The South African Constitution and the enshrined Bill of Rights provides that, "everyone has the right to have access to sufficient water".

February, 2004

Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, Mr Ronnie Kasrils Minister for Provincial and Local Government, Mr Sydney Mufamadi Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr Penuel Maduna

Governmental Ministers

We are writing because it has come to our attention that Johannesburg Water in partnership with Suez is in effect violating one of the most celebrated achievements of South Africa’s transition to democracy. The South African Constitution and the enshrined Bill of Rights provides that, "everyone has the right to have access to sufficient water".

Ministers, as you know, South Africa is also a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This Covenant explicitly acknowledges, "water is a public good fundamental for life and health Ö the human right to water is indispensable for leading a life of human dignity, it is prerequisite for the realization of other human rights".

We believe the French multinational Suez (through partnership with Johannesburg Water) is effectively overlooking both this International Covenant and the South African Constitutional right of access to sufficient water by installing pre-paid water meter systems in poor and primarily black communities of Johannesburg.

Pre-paid water meter systems and the associated policy of ’cost recovery’ has resulted in price increases, hitting poor communities the hardest. Unable to pay, poor families have been cut-off from their water supplies -as many as ten million people have been affected by cut-offs since the end of apartheid. Those poor communities without previous access to clean water have either suffered the same fate once infrastructure was provided or have simply had to make do with sourcing water from polluted streams and far-away boreholes.

The collective impact of water privatization on the majority of South Africans has been devastating. The desperate search for any available source of water has resulted in cholera outbreaks that have claimed the lives of hundreds. Inadequate hygiene and ’self-serve’ sanitation systems have led to continuous exposure, especially for children to various preventable diseases.

There has been an increase in environmental pollution and degradation arising from uncontrolled effluent discharges. There is a scarcity of water for food production. And, the human dignity of entire communities has been ripped apart, as the right to the most basic of human needs, water, has been turned into a restricted privilege available only to those who can afford it.

Clearly, this policy and the reliance on foreign water corporations like Suez violate the spirit and intent of the Bill of the Rights and the International Covenant on Rights.

Ministers, there is also considerable evidence from Suez’s international track record that your governments national and international obligations to provide South African citizens sufficient water services via Suez in particular, is in jeopardy.

Not long ago, Suez was the company leading the globalization of private water operations, declaring that bringing water to the poor is one mission that the company was committed to, yet in it’s Strategic Action Plan from January 2003 Suez revealed its new corporate strategy which essentially is to abandon projects which are problematic, risky or not as lucrative - mostly in the developing countries.

Ministers of South Africa, we urge you to examine the experiences of other countries with Suez and with pre-paid metering systems in general which have a deleterious impact on communities and have proven to be contravention of basic human rights.

Pre-paid water meters were declared illegal in the United Kingdom (U.K.) under the Water Act of 1998. The U.K demonstrated the courage to end a disastrous policy after research showed pre-paid water meters were linked to increased cases of dysentery and other diseases related to lack of clean water.

That lesson is already known to South Africans from the 2001 cholera outbreak in KwaZulu-Natal province, which showed conclusively this disaster was linked to policies of increased cost recovery, the installation of pre-paid meters, and the special vulnerability of people living with HIV or cholera.

The pricing or tariff structures for water are not sufficiently "progressive", penalizing those who consume relatively little while continuing to subsidize those who consume a lot.

Given, Suez’s corporate retreat from less lucrative ventures there is reason to be concerned with Suez’s capacity to honor the public policy intent behind the ’free water’ policy.

Ministers, as you know, the resistance campaign to pre-paid water meters is growing and gaining support internationally - the likely outcome will be increased notoriety for Suez and its’ supply chain manufacturers.

Ministers, finally we urge you to closely examine the track record of Suez in places like Manila, Philippines; Buenos Aires, Argentina; New Delhi, India; Halifax, Canada; New Rochelle, and Atlanta USA and their operations in France. You will find that Suez has a legacy o problems including early termination of contracts, fines from regulatory agencies, unfulfilled contractual agreements, angering local communities affected by groundwater impacts and they have also faced a number of corruption investigations.

It is no consolation that former senior Suez Executive Gerard Payen’s has publicly commented that ’other businesses are worse than Suez’.

We call upon you now to show the world the strength of character that the new South African government demonstrated when your leaders crafted your constitution.

Now is the time to outlaw and remove from all communities pre paid meters where they have been installed.

Now is the time for government to reverse its policy of privatizing water and all other basic needs by canceling all ’service’ contracts and management agreements with private water/waste corporations.

Now is the time for governments to publicly affirm the human and constitutional right of all South Africans to water by ensuring full public ownership, operation and management of public utilities in order to provide free basic services for all.

Now is the time for government to make a firm political and fiscal commitment to rollout universally accessible infrastructure for the delivery of water that will uphold human rights and human dignity.

Now is the moment to do the right thing.

List of organizations

Public Citizen Wenonah Hauter, Director Critical Mass United States

Polaris Institute Tony Clarke, Executive Director Canada

ACME France

Africa-Europe Network of the Netherlands Cor van den Brand, President The Netherlands

Africa Faith & Justice Network Larry J. Goodwin, Associate Director for Organizing United States

Aid Transparency Senegal

Alliance for Democracy United States

ATTAC Denmark

Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace Mary Durran, Researcher Canaca

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Brenda Wall Canada

Citizens’ Network on Essential Services Tim Kessler, Research Director United States

Common Assets Defense Fund United States

Council of Canadians Canada

Dallas Water utilities Chris Kaakaty, Assistant Director United States

Development VISIONS Khalid Hussain, Chairman Pakistan

DMAE (The Municipal Department of Water and Sanitary Sewerage) Ing. Carlos Atilio Todeschini, General Director Brazil

Earth Action Network Mha Atma S. Khalsa, director United States

Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy United States

Foundation for Global Community Tom Ferguson Georgia, United States

Friends of the Earth - Canada David B. Brooks, Director of Research Canada

Friends of the Earth - US Leslie Fields, Director, Global Sustainability Initiative United States

Fundacion Centro de Derechos Humanos y Medio Ambiente - (CEDHA)

Juan Miguel Picolotti, Asesor Legal, Programa Acceso a la Justicia. Argentina

GRACE - Global Resource Action Center for the Environment Alice Slater United States

Global Trade Watch Michael Cebon Australia

Halifax Initiative Pam Foster Canada

Harris Co. Texas Green Party United States

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Minnesota, USA

Ibon Foundation Inc The Philippines

Integrated Social Development Centre Rudolf N Amenga-Etego Ghana

KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance Cha Smith, Executive Director Hawai’i

Kairos John Dillon, researcher Canada

Les Amis de la Terre France

Marcus Garvey Foundation Charles Chipungahelo Tanzania

National Coalition Against Privatisation of Water Al-hassan Adam, National Secretariat Accra-Ghana

ORCADE Dr. Moses K. Kambou, President Burkina Faso

Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Mandy Rocks, Political Assistant Canada

REDES-Friends of the Earth - Uruguay Alberto Villarreal Uruguay

Resident Peaceniks Amy Biskovich; Founding Director Washington, United States

Sweetwater Alliance Michigan, USA

The Leadership Council Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Michigan United States

The Sparrow Sings United States

Water Movement Trude Malthe Thomassen, General Manager Norway

Washington Office on Africa Leon P. Spencer, Executive Director United States

Water Stewards Network Michael Blazewicz, Resources Coordinator Vermont United States

Worldview, Ltd. John Friede, Executive Director New Hampshire United States

WTO Watch Qld Australia

List of individuals

Birgit Koldsø El Salvador

John Paul Coakley California, United States

Seth Shulman

Ignatius J. Wozniak New York, United States

Diana Roe

Mary Lebert

Tom Smith Texas, United States

Judi Poulson Minnesota, USA

Neal Elinoff Untied States

Clyde W. Everton Idaho, United States

Vivian Dean Vancouver Island, Canada

Christopher J. Roe

Stacy Ozesmi Indiana, United States

Ben Demar United States

Joan McBride United States

George H. Ferdinand Michigan, United States

C. Bradley Arizona, United States

Dianne Kocer

Stephen Kislock

Julie Pihl

Catherine Marciniak

Eileen Chieco, Ph.D. New York, United States

Kathleen R. Ferris Tennessee, United States

Lorraine Kitman California, United States

Robert E.Edmands, M.D. Indiana, United States

June Jaye Logie

Isabella K. Lacki North Carolina, United States

David R. Forest

Bob Baxter

Elaine Booth California, United States

Patricia Dugan Florida, United States

Carlos Milan Florida, United States

Scott Edmonson California, United States

Greg and Barbara Rupert Minnesota, United States

Barbara van Davis Illinois, United States

Ruth Main Canada

Lisa Cohen

Jen Flasko

Sam Duncombe The Bahamas

Tony Duncombe The Bahamas

Adam Duncombe The Bahamas

Khalila Duncombe The Bahamas

John Laituri

Dana L. Cohen

Barbara E. Ewing Nevada, United States

Adam C. Geisler Beijing, China

Jeffrey Schultz Gualala, California

Ellen Edmondson Florida, United States

Carlos Ruiz Escudero Madrid, Spain

Francisco Altemir Ruiz-Ocaņa Madrid, Spain

Laeh Maggie Garfield

George Brooks

Peter C. Meissner California United States

William Potvin

Carol J. Griesemer Missouri United States

Rob Bleijerveld The Netherlands

Harvey Dobson

Mike Keefe-Feldman Missoula Independent

Colleen Llywelyn Oregon, United States

Nelson Cone

George H. Brooks United States

Helene Stone United States

Ann Hubbird Oregon, United States

Melissa Kaminsky New York, United States

Michael Belanger Larry Cameron Canada Canada

Maggi Dotchuk Regina, Canada

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