South Africa

A new report by leading health experts on behalf of the Municipal Services Project, The Problem of Handwashing and Paying for Water, found that pre-paid water metres have a negative effect on household hygiene, with insufficient handwashing increasing the risk of water-borne diseases and other health problems in poor communities. The report argued: “In a country where poverty is rife, where there is soaring unemployment, where there is a massive housing backlog, and where hunger is a daily reality, it is unrealistic to expect poor people to purchase, in advance, a basic good such as water.” The findings give weight to the legal challenge launched in the High Court in July 2006 by a coalition collection of community organisations and NGOs opposing current water policies — and Soweto residents, which is demanding that Johannesburg Water’s unilateral decision to impose the pre-paid meters be declared unconstitutional and illegal.
The Golden Triangle Community Crisis Committee (GOLCCOM), a community-based organisation in the south of Johannesburg, has been leading a struggle since the beginning of the year for access to basic housing in the Freedom Park informal settlement. A March 15 community march called for the right to land, housing, water, electricity and education, but the council has still not responded to these demands. In early April, another peaceful protest was held at which police randomly shot protesters and arrested 14 people, who were later released under pressure from the community and supporting organisations. One of those shot, Simon Mkupe, lost his right and GOLCCOM plans to take legal action in response. For more information, email Thabang Makhele at <>.

The Anti-Privatisation Forum — an organisation that unites trade unions, township residents' groups, left-wing parties, anarchists and social justice activists — has forthrightly rejected the South African government's plan to privatise the country's electricity utility, Eskom.


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