The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) declared [on 25 March 2009] that the pre-payment water meters used in Phiri (a township in Soweto) in respect of water level 3 consumers is unlawful, because such use is not authorised by the by-laws, but suspended its order for a period of two years so as to enable the City of Johannesburg to legalise that use if it was able to do so.
The SCA also declared that the City of Johannesburg is constitutionally obliged to provide 42 litres free water to each Phiri resident who cannot afford to pay for such water, to the extent that it is reasonable to do so, having regard to its available resources. It ordered the City and Johannesburg Water (Pty) Ltd to reconsider and reformulate their free water policy accordingly. Until such time as that policy is reformulated the City and Johannesburg Water were ordered to provide account holders in Phiri who are registered as indigent with 42 litres free water per day per member of his or her household.
The appeal that was brought by the City, Johannesburg Water and the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry against declarations and orders made against them by the Johannesburg High Court was partially successful, to the extent that those declarations and orders were amended.
Read the full text of the appeal here.
Source: Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa, 25 Mar 2009
The Coalition Against Water Privatisation (CAWP) called the SCA judgment “a case of ‘one step forward, two steps back’”. [...] The [CAWP welcomes] “SCA’s decision to set aside the City’s present policy of limiting the provision of free basic water to 6kl per month/per household” [but it contends that] 42 litres of water per person/per day [...] falls short of what is universally accepted and recognised as the minimum amount of water needed for basic human needs and dignity”.
“Even more problematic though, is that the SCA’s order to the City to provide this amount, is conditional [and that it effectively] allowed carte blanche (through its own assessment of what constitutes ‘reasonableness’ and ‘through available resources’) to determine the timing, character and extent of changes to its existing ‘free water policy’. To make matters worse, the SCA order explicitly states that while the City is ‘reformulating’ its policy, the provision of the increased free basic amount must only be available to those who are registered as indigents with the City. [...] In making such an order, the SCA allows the City, once again, to unilaterally determine and manage who enjoys their constitutional right to water and when. Crucially, it effectively legalises the treatment of the poor majority as second class citizens”.
[...] “The order gives the City two years to pass the necessary by-laws so that the pre-paid meters can then be ‘legalised’. In practical terms, this means that the City can thus continue to forcibly install pre-paid meters in poor communities (while providing wealthier residents with full credit metered water systems and thus allowing those with the means to do, to consume as much water as they want as long as they can afford it). This is a legal cop-out”, says CAWP. A view echoed by Kerry Williams from from Webber Wentzel’s public law department in his article “Court’s slippery water remedy not good for the rule of law”published in Business Day, 30 March 2009
Source: CAWP, Anarkismo.net, 27 Mar 2009