Pamphlet on Johannesburg Water’s War Against the Poor

Monday 18 October 2004 by Dale

JOHANNESBURG WATER DECLARES WAR ON THE POOR! Johannesburg Water is attempting to silence and criminalize the voices of those who are resisting its programme - Operation Gcin’amanzi - of installing pre-paid water meters in the Phiri community of SOWETO. Instead of listening to the very community it claims to be helping, Johannesburg Water has brought in the South African Police Services and the hated ‘Red Ants’ of Wozani Security to crack down on community opposition. Already, 13 community residents have been arrested on charges of ‘malicious damage to property’ and are now being subjected to apartheid-era bail conditions that include a ban on attending/ participating in, any meeting or gathering dealing with Operation Gcin’amanzi. Johannesburg Water has also been granted an interdict by the High Court to prevent community residents and members of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee (SECC) and the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) from resisting Operation Gcin’amanzi. The interdict bans any ‘interference’ with Operation Gcin’amanzi’ and bans the community, the SECC and the APF from coming within 50 meters of any physical work of Operation Gcin’amanzi. The interdict also authorises the “sheriff of the court to engage the services of a private security company to assist” in arrests. Giving the hated ‘Red Ants’ powers of arrest is an illegal act of privatising law enforcement, much in the same way that the installation of pre-paid water meters is an illegal act of privatising the provision of the most basic resource of life - water.


It is Johannesburg Water and their Operation Gcin’amanzi who are the real criminals. The real motto of their campaign to commodify water should be - ‘No Money, No Water, No life’. The simple fact is that the privatisation of water through the installation of pre-paid water meters will mean that poor people unable to afford access will die. That is exactly what happened in Kwa-Zulu Natal in 2001 when over 200 people died of cholera after having been forced to drink water from polluted streams due to Umgeni Water Board charging the poor residents of Ngwelezane for water provision. Many poor families will have no money to buy the card to get the water. No water to cook, to wash, to brush your teeth, to clean babies’ milk bottles, to wash napkins, to flush the toilet. The next-door neighbour will not be able to help you because they also have no money. The standard of hygiene will go down, there will be health hazards and outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, dysentery and diarrhoea. The capitalist bosses and ANC politicians must take the blame when people die. The bosses of Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux, the French multi-national company that is making profits from Johannesburg’s water, must answer when the people die. Mayor Amos Masondo, whose ANC-run City Council made the decision to privatise our water services, must answer when the people die from the pre-paid water meters. Life - water = death.


The ANC government promised us free water and free electricity during the 2000 local government elections. Are pre-paid water meters giving us free water? No. Pre-paid water meters are about making profits for the capitalist bosses of Johannesburg Water Company. They are installing pre-paid water meters to make sure that we pay for the water. The ANC councillors and Johannesburg Water lie and say pre-paid water meters will bring free water of 6000 litres per family. 6000 litres is too little for even basic sanitation needs and pre-paid meters cannot provide free water. The ANC government’s promise of free water is an empty promise. All they want is our vote. Next year in 2005 they will come again into communities promising us heaven and earth. But the ANC has betrayed the millions and millions of people who fought against apartheid and tens of thousands who died for freedom. Now that they are in parliament and municipal councils they have forgotten about us and are working with private companies who are only interested in profit and enriching themselves. The ANC government has chosen to work for the capitalists and help them make profits. Capitalism is a system that exploits the poor, the working class. It is the capitalists who pay us starvation wages, who retrench us, who employ us as casuals and who throw us out without proper pensions when we are old. The ANC is a government of capitalists. By serving the capitalist bosses the leaders of the ANC betray the working class who put them in power. GEAR, privatisation and other economic policies of the ANC government are there to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. It is capitalism that says give water to only those who have money to pay.


The installation of pre-paid water meters was not discussed with community residents. Johannesburg Water and the ANC councillors decided to start a pilot project both Orange Farm and Phiri without informing the residents. This is not democracy. It is the same with ESKOM and the electricity pre-paid meters where the ANC councillors and some SANCO leaders agreed to install meters without asking residents. According to the Water Services Act communities must be consulted if there are to be any changes to how their water is run. The Johannesburg City Council and the Johannesburg Water Company have failed to produce a Water Services Development Plan that they are legally bound to give to residents for comment and input. Neither Johannesburg Water nor any councillor has ever called any meeting where the residents of Orange Farm or Phiri were informed about Operation Gcin’amanzi. No councillor has ever been given any mandate to agree to the installation of pre-paid water meters.


Stop Operation Gcin’amanzi now and halt the installation of pre-paid water meters in Phiri Stop the criminalization of dissent against Operation Gcin’amanzi. Johannesburg Water Company must remove its containers from our streets Water workers must be paid a living wage - no to casual labour and volunteers Johannesburg Water and the City Council must produce the Water Services Development Plan for SOWETO so that residents can comment and give our input Councillor Kunene (Phiri) and his senior management must resign. By agreeing to pre-paid water meters they no longer represents the residents of Phiri The ANC government must reverse its policy of privatising water, electricity and other basic services. All public service providers must provide free basic services for all. Basic human rights cannot be held hostage to the inhuman policy of capitalist ‘cost-recovery’ that makes water and other basic services privileges only to be enjoyed by those who can afford to pay.

Water is Life! Phansi Operation Gcinámanzi! Resist and fight!

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