A fight for right to free water in South Africa

Published: Tuesday 15 January 2008

Residents of Phiri--one of the poorest townships in South Africa -- have filed a lawsuit against Johannesburg municipality's multimillion-dollar prepaid water system.

The system is in violation of the residents' right to free water, they say. The residents have appealed to the court to order the municipal authorities to provide at least 50 litres of free water per person a day--double what they currently receive. They also want to follow an old water delivery system, in which unlimited water is available for a flat fee. Posh areas of Johannesburg still follow the old water delivery system.

Johannesburg Water, the utility owned by the Johannesburg municipality, started installing prepaid water meters in Phiri, part of Soweto, in 2003. Arguments over whether the move is constitutional or not have been going on since then.

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