SAMWU in Cape Town joins the struggle to remove prepaids
Tuesday 10 February 2009 by Nic
The Coalition Against Water Privatisation applauds the statement issued by the South Africa Municipal Workers Unions (SAMWU) in Cape Town that affirms the union’s principled opposition to prepaid water meters. SAMWU in Cape Town is fighting against the imposition and the use of prepaid water meters in poor communities where the DA-led Cape Town municipality has been installing the hated meters since 2006. It is a hand of solidarity extended by organised labour to poor communities that the Coalition hopes other branches of SAMWU, as well as other unions, will emulate. The struggle to scrap prepaid meters, flow restrictors and other devices that tamper with people’s access to water is closer to won with greater unity between our sections of the working class.
Government has been persistent in its recommendation of prepaid water meters. SAMWU Cape Town observes that the ANC announced in 2005 that it would no longer go ahead with these technologies but under the administration of the Democratic Alliance the prepaids were re-introduced in 2006. Certain impoverished working class areas were targeted in what the City of Cape Town claimed at the time were only pilot projects and would be evaluated after 6 months. This evaluation never took place and the installation of prepaid systems has proceeded. This is the very same tactic that Johannesburg Water used in Phiri where the ‘pilot project’ of Operation Gcina’manzi became a fait accompli for the rest of Soweto.
Prepaids and cholera
The introduction of prepaid water meters by the African National Congress government brought nothing but suffering to poor people’s lives. Their affects on public health were immediately evident from the time of their first imposition when nine communal standpipes on the outskirts of Empangeni in KwaZulu Natal were converted to a prepaid system in 2000 in Empangeni. These nine taps were at the epicentre of what unfolded as the worst cholera outbreak by then in the history of South Africa. More cases of cholera were recorded from August 2000 to April 2001 than in the prior twenty years.
With cholera raging again in Limpopo and Mpumalanga, the costs of restricting access to water can no longer be carried by the poor. It is untrue that cholera has come across the border with Zimbabwe because the bacterial contagion will only thrive wherever water services are lacking and people depend on naturally occurring water. Cholera patients from Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga, as the case in point, have been nearly all residents of the area without proper water or sanitation connections. Cost recovery leads to high morbidity in a poor country like South Africa. The CAWP argues that the ANC government cannot continue laying the lives of poor people on the line of its neoliberal plans.
Unifying the water struggle
The CAWP together with social movements like the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) and institutions like the Centre for Applied Legal Study’s (CALS) as well as SAMWU have been in supports of communities fighting to protect the human right to water and will continue to doing so.
The CAWP and SAMWU are discussing a joint programme that will focus on intensifying the struggle against the use of prepaid water meters. Residents of Soweto have been implementing Operation Vula’Amanzi - a campaign to remove prepaid water meters. CAWP welcomes SAMWU’s initiative of taking serious steps to “support all communities who wish to have these devices removed for good.” These devices are installed against people’s will and therefore have no place in our communities.
For more information/comments please contact: Patrick “Patra” Sindane CAWP Organiser 073 052 7005
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