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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Water privatisation: The case against
By Trevor Ngwane
Anti Privatisation Forum in Johannesburg

Water is life. Everyone should have access to water. South Africa's Bill of Rights states that every citizen has a right to water.

Privatisation poses a threat to that commitment because once privatised, water will no longer be provided on the basis of need but on the ability to pay.

Many poor people in South Africa simply cannot afford to pay for water.

In 2000, the government of South Africa compelled the rural people of Ngwelezane in the Kwa Zulu-Natal province to pay for water that they have been receiving for free under apartheid. And as they could not afford to pay, many resorted to using water from streams with the result that there was a cholera outbreak that claimed 200 lives.

A threat to democracy

Privatised water means less democratic control. Privatisation removes water from public control thus robbing citizens of their democratic say over how this important resource is used.

South Africa's experience with private water companies is not a rosy one.

This policy also clashes with African cultural values. The idea of "Water for sale" is unheard of in Africa, at least before Western civilization interfered.

South Africa's experience with private water companies is not a rosy one.

When water companies Vivendi and Suez took over some water and sanitation systems in Bhofolo and Queenstown in the Eastern Cape they did so with a promise to "inject capital and upgrade the service".

Five years later the people of Bhofolo are still stuck with the bucket toilet system.

Job losses and attacks on worker rights also accompany privatization.

Private companies will not take over water systems serving poorer communities living far from city centers and water pipes.

They always choose the most profitable and thus pick the juiciest cherry leaving the local public authorities to carry the burden of the poor while they laugh all the way to the bank.

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