COALITION AGAINST WATER PRIVATISATION &
Monday 17th August 2009
The Phiri water rights case was initiated almost six years ago as a direct result of the cynical and repressive closing down of both the institutional and political democratic space which were supposed to act as the vehicles for the ‘delivery’ of basic services and the realisation of socio-economic rights. While this reality was crystal clear to the residents of Phiri and many other poor communities at the time, it has taken several more years and thousands more community struggles and protests to wake up the rest of South Africa. Indeed, this entire case has been the outcome of a consistent failure of institutional and representative (democratic) politics alongside political leadership and will.
In such a context, the legal route presented itself as another means to pursue the struggle against the forcible and discriminatory installation of pre-paid water meters as well as against the unilateral and patronising determination of adequate amounts of ‘free basic water’. However, the possibilities of the legal avenue securing substantive redress and/or realisation of human/constitutional rights has always been, and remains, extremely difficult for the poor precisely because of the large amounts of both financial and human capital required. It is a sad indictment on the character and accessibility of our democracy when most all of its key ‘vehicles’ are closed off to the majority.
Despite the overwhelmingly unequal relations of institutional power and money involved and the excruciatingly slow and often alienating court/appeals system, all of those involved in this landmark case have stayed the course over six long, hard years. The arrival of this case in the Constitutional Court is a victory in itself. We, of course, hope that the final ruling will give positive practical content to the long-awaited realisation of the human and constitutional rights to water. The Justices of the Constitutional Court have a historic opportunity, not simply in legal terms but also in social and political terms. Millions in South Africa and across the globe will be watching and listening.
For further comment and/or information please contact:
For CAWP/APF: Dale McKinley @ 072 429 4086; Virginia Setshedi @ 074 792 9608; Mish Tladi @073 358 0978
For Legal Team: Jackie Dugard at Centre for Applied Legal Studies @ 084 240 6187