Friday, 16 November 2007

Friday 16 November

By Vicky Cann, WDM

As Mussa has reported, the first meeting of the AWN network is now well underway and we’ve heard some strong presentations from around Africa looking at the different struggles to resist privatisation and to reclaim public water.

One of the most inspiring presentations so far was from local activist Jennifer Makoatsane. Jennifer is one of five Soweto residents who are challenging Johannesburg Water’s use of pre paid water meters in the South African high court. Johannesburg Water used to be run by French multinational Suez and the case will be heard in early December and Jennifer is preparing the evidence for it right now. The case is tied up with the implementation of South Africa’s policy to allocate 6000 litres of free water per month, per household.

That may sound like a generous policy but in fact, that only equates to 25 litres per day per person – or 2 flushes of the loo. For residents in Soweto, especially those who are unemployed or who may be caring for sick relatives or young children, the use of pre-paid water meters have put an intolerable burden on communities. This free allocation can run out quite quickly each month and then if you don’t have any money right then, you can’t purchase more water – so you have no access. As was said, with this policy, “Johannesburg Water is giving a little with the right hand, and taking a lot with the left.”

She spoke to us about the resistance within Soweto to these pre-paid water meters and showed us some of the materials that Jo’burg Water has distributed to inform people on how they are supposed to live on their allocation.

Jennifer has also written a poem to mark the creation of the AWN:

“A baby was born, fathered by Papa Africa, mothered by Mama Network, named Water
A good gifted gold
She is my loving friend for when I thirst she quenches me
When I dirty, she showers me with her unconditional love – water
Oh how I love her indeed!
She crystally flows from the Indian Ocean, into the Mediterranean Sea
Through the Pacific Ocean and in dams and rivers of Papa Africa nurtured by Mama network
The evil forces are abusing her, trying to turn into a private commodity and profit-greedy monster – privatisation
They rape and violate her human dignity – the spirit of ‘ubantu’
Her international brothers and sisters are by her side in solidarity
She is standing firm to unite Papa Africa and Mama Network…”

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