S.Africa: Soweto: Blacks don't want to pay for water
- From: WWW.AfricanCrisis.Org
[Blacks don't like paying for anything - even when it is their own
country. They steal electricity by engaging in illegal hookups. They
don't want to pay for telephones. They don't want to pay for water.
Why do we Whites want to associate ourselves with such a race of thieves
and losers? Jan]
Tensions ran high as angry Soweto residents rampaged through the streets,
pulling out newly installed water pipes.
About 300 White City residents, protesting under the banner of the
Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), gathered at a local soccer ground
yesterday to voice their opposition to a move by Joburg Water to install
pre-paid water meters at their homes.
"Away with the council's water meters, away!" shouted the crowd.
According to Smangele Ngubane, a spokesperson for the protesters,
residents had been taken by surprise last month when council workers
descended on the township and started digging trenches to install the
meters "without our consent".
"This project has caused a lot of confusion among the residents. We have
been told that under the new system, people will only be able to access
water if they have paid for it. That sounds ridiculous because, since I
grew up here, we have never had to pay for water," said Ngubane.
She claimed that the council had used threats to get the community to
accept the new system.
"In some instances, people have been told that if they don't accept it,
they would be evicted from their houses. Others have been told that they
would have their water supply cut off, while pensioners have been
threatened with the withholding of their monthly grants."
Sabina Molefe (60) said she could not be expected to be able to pay for
water on her monthly pension, which she used to support four other
members of her family.
"The government must understand that people are unemployed. We as
pensioners look after sick people in our homes. How are we going to bathe
them and wash their clothing if we do not have water?" asked Molefe.
"We are going to resist any move aimed at forcing us to pay for water,"
Following a heated meeting, residents decided to move into the township
and pull out the plastic pipes.
The situation almost turned ugly and tension hung in the air as some
residents refused to allow the protesters access to their premises.
One agitated resident told the protesters not to enter his yard because
he was happy with what the authorities were doing.
As things calmed down, the protesters agreed to take the pipes to an open
space, where they were dumped. They dared the council to return to the
area if they wanted further confrontation with residents.
APF organiser Trevor Ngwane said the problem was with the privatisation
"It means the poor won't have access to water ... and we believe that
water is life. This is going to be a crucial issue in the coming local
government elections," he warned.
However, Joburg Water spokesperson Jameel Chand described the new system
"We are not forcing people to accept the meters. They can either say yes
or no. We only install the meters on that basis, and there has been a
very small percentage of people who are saying no," he said.
According to Chand, of a total of 5 000 households in White City, 4 500
had accepted the meters. He said the project had encountered resistance
only from the APF.
Chand also pointed out that the project was aimed at upgrading
infrastructure in the townships and putting in some form of metering. He
indicated that in Phiri, where the system is already in operation, 99% of
the residents had approved it.
He also denied the allegations that residents were being coerced into
accepting the new system.