in a landmark ruling on April 30 the High Court (hc) of South Africa announced
prepaid water meters cannot be imposed on residents of Phiri--a township in Soweto outside Johannesburg. The judge, M P Tsoka, also
ordered to provide residents of Phiri 50 litres per capita per day (lpcd) of free basic water, setting aside the city's decision to limit free water to
This was in response to a petition filed in July 2006 by Lindiwe Mazibuko and four others living in the poor settlements in Phiri. They challenged the 2004 decisions of the city of Johannesburg and its water utility, Johannesburg Water (Proprietary) Limited (jw), which they saw as infringement of their right to water. The petitioners argued the decision to limit free basic water supply to 6000 litres per household per month was based on the false assumption that a household comprised 8 persons.That was not the case, pointed out Phiri's petitioners, as most households supported on an average 16 persons.
Following the hc ruling, battlelines have been drawn with city managers deciding to appeal against the order. On May 14, the executive mayor of the city, Amos Masondo, made public the government's intention "We believe the judgment has been distorted somewhat and would like to place our perspective on the matter. Our basis for appeal will be set out systematically in legal argument." Meanwhile, many have started removing their prepaid water meters or bypassing them. JW has appealed to residents to refrain from such acts.
Prior to 2001 Phiri received an unlimited amount of water on a flat rate. As most residents of Phiri were very poor, the collection of water charges was also poor and huge arrears accumulated. In 2001, Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (dwaf) made free basic water a people's right across South Africa guaranteeing 6000 litres per household at the rate of 25 lpcd.
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