Final Letter of Demand to JHB Water
Friday 14 September 2007
Mr Anthony Still Executive Director Johannesburg Water 58 Frederick St Marshalltown Johannesburg
6 August 2004
Dear Mr Still
DISCONNECTION OF WATER SUPPLY AND INSTALLATION OF PREPAID WATER METERS IN PHIRI, SOWETO
1. We act for the persons named on the attached list (Annexure A), all of whom are residents of Phiri, Soweto.
2. Our instructions are that until March this year you supplied our clients and their families with unlimited water for which a flat-rate charge was levied.
3. Our clients are indigent. Their average household income is less than R1500 per month. In consequence, most of them were behind in their payment of the flat-rate charges to a greater or lesser extent.
4. In an apparent attempt to address this situation, you held several community consultation meetings in Phiri. Many of our clients also received a standard letter substantially in the form of the letter attached hereto (Annexure B).
5. During the course of these consultations, our clients were informed that their existing water supply would be disconnected, and that they could choose between having a standpipe or a prepaid water meter installed on their property. Some of our clients, whose names are followed on the attached list (Annexure A) by the words “no choice”, were not given a choice between standpipes and prepaid meters, but were instead informed that the only water supply option available to them was to have a prepaid water meter installed on their property.
6. Between 17 March and 30 June 2004, the water supply of the persons named in class 1 on the attached list was disconnected without an alternative form of supply being provided, and the water supply of the persons named in class 2 on the attached list was disconnected and then reconnected to a controlled volume water supply system operated by means of a prepaid water meter (“a prepaid water meter system”).
7. The disconnection and/or change to the form of our clients’ water supply was carried out by persons employed by Johannesburg Water or persons acting on its instructions.
8. We are instructed further that on 8 July 2004 our clients’ access to Chiawelo 1 Reservoir in Phiri was blocked, leaving them without any access to water in Phiri. Once again, persons employed by Johannesburg Water or acting on its instructions were responsible for this action.
9. Most of our clients are unemployed, and rely on disability grants, child support grants or pensions. Our class 1 clients refused to have prepaid water meters installed on their property because they believe that this system of supply is unaffordable. Our class 2 clients, who have had prepaid water meters installed on their property, also prefer the flat-rate system, but feel that they were given no real option but to permit prepaid water meters to be installed on their property.
10. Because they are indigent, our class 2 clients are often unable to recharge the prepaid water meter on their property and have to rely on friends or neighbours who do have access to water to give them water. This is also the way in which our class 1 clients currently access water.
11. Many of our clients in both classes have chronic and life-threatening illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, diabetes and muscular dystrophy, which require regular access to sufficient water to meet not only their basic needs, but also the special needs attaching to their condition.
12. Our clients’ restricted access to water has resulted in widespread and acute suffering, especially amongst the ill and the elderly.
13. The disconnection, or change to the form, of our clients’ water supply was unlawful for the following reasons:
13.1 The procedure followed in disconnecting our clients’ existing water supply was unfair and contravened section 59(4) of the National Water Act 36 of 1998, section 4(3) of the Water Services Act 108 of 1997, section 3(2)(b) of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000, and section 9C of the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality Water Services By-Laws;
13.2 the procedure followed in attempting to change our clients’ existing water supply from a flat-rate system to a standpipe or prepaid water meter system did not comply with section 3 of the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality Water Services By-Laws in that:
13.2.1 in the consultations that took place before the disconnections or changeover occurred, our clients were not given the option of a metered full pressure water connection (Service Level 3), contrary to section 3(c) of the Water Services By-Laws;
13.2.2 where prepaid meters were installed, this occurred without its being established that our clients had contravened section 3(2)(b)(aa) or (bb), as required by section 3(3) of the Water Services By-Laws;
13.3 the two water supply options offered to our clients were both unlawful in that:
13.3.1 the procedure by means of which a person’s water services are limited or discontinued in terms of the prepaid water meter system is inherently unfair and inequitable, does not provide for reasonable notice of a water services provider’s intention to limit or discontinue water services and for the opportunity to make representations, and necessarily results in the denial of access to basic water services for non-payment without the opportunity to prove that the person is unable to pay for basic services, contrary to section 4(3) of the Water Services Act;
13.3.2 the standpipe system offered to our clients did not comply with regulation 3 of the Regulations Relating to Compulsory National Standards and Measures to Conserve Water made under sections 9(1) and 73(1)(j) of the Water Services Act 108 of 1997 (GN R509 in GG 22355 of 8 June 2001) in that the rate of flow in the particular standpipe system offered to our clients was less than the required rate of 10 litres per minute;
13.3.3 the failure to offer our clients the alternative of a metered full-pressure water connection (Service Level 3), when this option is routinely offered to residents of other suburbs, violated their right to equality under section 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 108 of 1996 and their right not to be subject to unfair discrimination in sections 6 and 7 of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000;
13.4 the complete disconnection of our class 1 clients’ water supply together with the blocking of access to Chiawelo 1 Reservoir violated their right to have access to sufficient water in terms of section 27(1)(b) read with section 7(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 108 of 1996.
14. We are accordingly instructed to demand as a matter of urgency that you restore our clients’ access to water as it existed prior to March 2004 in the form of an uncontrolled-volume, full-pressure system for which a flat-rate charge was levied.
15. Should you fail to restore our clients’ water supply in this form by 17h00 on Friday, 13 August 2005, we are instructed immediately and without further notice to yourself to approach the High Court for urgent relief.
16. We look forward to your urgent response.
Caroline Nicholls Nicholls Cambanis
- Phiri Concerned Residents Committee - PCRC