Statement on Increase in Water Tariffs

Tuesday 29 June 2004




The Anti-Privatisation Forum alongside its partners in the Coalition Against Water Privatisation condemn the 9% increase in Johannesburg’s water tariffs that will come into effect on 1st July as part of the Johannesburg Council’s 2004-2005 budget. Since 2001, when the management and operations of Johannesburg Water were privatised to the French water multi-national company - Suez - water tariffs have cumulatively risen by over 40%. This precipitous rise in the price of water is the direct result of the ‘cost- recovery’ approach that is part of the profit-seeking activities of Johannesburg Water. As a result, tens of thousands of poor people have had their water cut-off and are now being forced to accept the self-disconnection technology of pre-paid water meters.

In a clear indication of where Johannesburg Water intends to spend the money that will accrue from higher water tariffs, over 30% (R150 million) of its entire capital budget for 2004-2005 (R450 million) will go towards the installation of pre-paid water meters (as part of Operation Gcin’amanzi in Soweto, whose three year budget has been increased by over R100 million). Having already been forced to accept the government’s unilateral and completely inadequate provision of the ‘free’ lifeline of 6000l per month/per household, poor people will now have to pay even more to access the necessary amount of water needed for their daily basic needs/use and human dignity.

While Johannesburg Water reaps increasing profits from rising tariffs and aggressive ‘cost-recovery’ mechanisms, independent research shows that the 30% of Johannesburg’s 3.2 million residents who live in informal shack settlements still suffer indignity and inadequate hygiene: 65% use communal standpipes and 20% receive small amounts from water tankers (the other 15% have outdoor yard taps). For sanitation, 52% have dug pit latrines themselves, 45% rely on chemical toilets, 2% have communal flush toilets and 1% use ablution blocks. Despite this reality, the 2004-2005 budget provides precious little in the way of capital expenditure for these poorest of the poor.

Until and unless water is treated as a universal human right and not as a privileged market commodity, poor South Africans will continue to suffer. The APF and its allies in the Coalition Against Water Privatisation will intensify the struggle against the privatisation of water and all its attendant consequences. We demand that the Johannesburg City Council:

Immediately cancel the contract with Suez and affirm the human and constitutional right of all South Africans to water by ensuring full public ownership, operation and management of Johannesburg Water (and other public utilities) in order to provide free basic services for all

Take concrete measures to halt the criminalisation of dissent and community opposition to the ongoing installation of pre-paid water meters and water cut-offs

Abandon Operation Gcin’amanzi and the installation of all pre-paid water meters in poor communities

Reverse the water tariff increases and adopt a budget that prioritises, both politically and fiscally, a commitment to roll-out universally accessible water infrastructure

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