Saturday, 17 November 2007

Saturday 17 November

From Vicky -

Today was the day of our solidarity march through Soweto, to demonstrate our support for the local campaign against pre-paid water meters.

Phiri is a township within Soweto. Soweto is a black township of 4.5 million people on the outskirts of Jo’burg. Since the ending of apartheid, it has been at the forefront of resistance to the privatisation policies of the South African government.

The march brought together us international visitors from the AWN, plus local residents and campaigners and we marched through part of Phiri to the offices of Johannesburg Water, demanding an end to pre-paid water meters – meters which have only been implemented in black township areas. We might have lacked huge numbers, but this was more than made up for with the wonderful singing and dancing especially by the South African marchers, and choruses of “this is what democracy looks like”, “down with pre-paid water meters - down” and “viva the African Water Network”. The atmosphere was fantastic – a more staid march through London might never feel quite the same again!?

As we marched, V. Suresh from Chennai, in South India who is visiting the AWN to report back on experiences of Indian struggles against private water and for strong public water (and who is an old friend of WDM), and I stopped off to talk to local residents about the impacts of pre-paid water meters.

One household we talked to said that their free ration of water only lasted for half the month, and with 15 or 16 people all using the water off this one meter, it had to be topped up everyday. In fact while we were demonstrating outside the office of Jo’burg water, a young woman turned up to top up here meter but she was turned away – they were closed to customers. As Virginia Setshedi, a South African activist said, what will she do now?

Now, we are back at the hotel for our last round of meetings. Over the last few days we’ve been developing the strategy of the AWN in future months and as we come to a close, members will be finalising this strategy and developing a follow-up workplan. We’ve come up with some ambitious yet important plans – working in solidarity with campaigners facing acute challenges, a database which can capture the state of water on the continent, and the need to gather and disseminate positive examples of progressive public and community water management.

Viva African Water Network, Viva!

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