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Blue Planet Project opposes pre-paid water meters in South Africa

Faeza Meyer

The Blue Planet Project is active in the Beacon Valley neighbourhood of the Mitchell’s Plain township, which is situated about 32 kilometres outside the city of Cape Town, South Africa.

Mitchell’s Plain is one of South Africa’s largest townships (with an estimated population of about 300,000 people). The township was constructed under Apartheid in the early 1970s through a process of forced removals to segregate the city. It is also one of the many communities in South Africa that continues to struggle for its constitutional right to clean, safe drinking water.

In 2009, the Inter Press Service reported, “In the Western Cape, the City of Cape Town has started to roll out Water Management Devices (WMDs) in townships, meters programmed to dispense a daily, pre-agreed amount of water. …Pre-paid water meters allow households a free basic monthly allowance of 6,000 litres of water before shutting off automatically. Residents then have to pay for more water.”

Notably, that article also highlights, “In April 2008, a Johannesburg court found that forcibly installing pre-paid meters denied people their constitutional right to water; Judge MP Toska also ruled that the free basic water allowance – calculated at 25 litres per person per day – is insufficient for township residents.”

IPS notes, “Water activists and community leaders say WMDs are a clear violation of the right to free basic water, stipulated in the South African Water Act, which specifies that no person should be without water for more than seven days. On average, a person needs 94 litres of water per day for basic needs such as drinking, cooking and bathing.”

In the coming year, the Blue Planet Project will be hosting a series of 3-4 workshops addressing African and global struggles against water metering. Prepaid water meters are increasingly being used throughout the region as a strategy to introduce private water services or to corporatize public water services.

For an 18-minute War on Want documentary on the Housing Assembly (which calls for decent housing for all, including housing with the right to water and sanitation), please click here. Ally and Beacon Valley resident Faeza Meyer, who is featured in this video, participated in the Blue Planet Project water justice strategy meeting in September 2014 in Toronto. Cape Town-based Blue Planet Project organizer Koni Benson works closely with Faeza and the Housing Assembly.

For more on this issue, please see the ‘Beacon Valley against Pre-paid water meters’ Facebook page here.

Further reading
Blue Planet Project organizes against pre-paid water meters in Cape Town (December 2014 blog)
The constitutional right to water in court (February 2009 blog)

Photo: Faeza Meyer fights for the right to water in Beacon Valley.