South Africa: struggle against water privatisation

FRFI 175 October / November 2003

Greetings, once again, from the Anti-Privatisation Forum. Below is an update on the struggle against pre-paid water meters in the community of Phiri, Soweto that is being waged by the community with the active support of the APF and its affiliate, the SECC.

After holding a mass meeting and door-to-door campaign, more than 1,000 Phiri residents marched to the Soweto offices of the Metropolitan Council on 20 September, despite the march having been banned by the police. It succeeded in increasing awareness and support for the struggle against Johannesburg Water’s Operation Gcin amanzi and the fight against privatisation of basic services as well as support for the comrades who had been arrested and gaoled for carrying out acts of resistance. Those comrades appeared in court and, after being gaoled for two weeks on the grounds that they were a direct threat to public security, our legal defence team succeeded in getting bail.

In an indication of the state’s zealousness in trying to contain the struggle, the bail amounts were all over R1,000 each and the bail conditions include a ban on coming within 500m of the council offices and the operations of Johannesburg Water as well as a ban on attending or addressing any meeting to do with Operation Gcin amanzi. All the comrades are due to appear in court again on 7 October.

Over the last week, the emergent coalition against water privatisation has been working hard to mobilise support for the struggles in Phiri and in laying the groundwork for legal challenges to Johannesburg Water as well as to the installation of pre-paid meters in South Africa. Plans are well under way, with the active assistance of the Freedom of Expression Institute, for a longer-term legal challenge to the constitutionality of pre-paid meters.

The APF would like to thank all those South African and international organisations that have already pledged their solidarity and active support. We have also begun to receive financial support in response to our appeal for legal defence funds and we hope that this will continue.

We want to emphasise that the struggles in Phiri are but part of a much larger struggle that is taking place across South Africa against the neo-liberal policies of the ANC government over land, education, healthcare, water, electricity and housing. The repression being meted out will not halt the struggle for basic human dignity and rights of the poor in Phiri and across South Africa. Such collective resistance is both necessary and never-ending for as long as the barbarism of capitalism exists.
A luta continua!
Dale McKinley
On behalf of the APF and the Coalition against Water Privatisation


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