Activists say water tariff hikes will affect the poor the most

Cape Town residents protesting the water tariffs earlier this year. Photo by Mzi Velapi

The water tariffs that kicked in on the 1st of July are seen as an attack on the poor by activists.

The City of Cape Town has implemented a water delivery charge plus a 10.1 percent increased water tariff, effective from 1 July.

The water delivery charge varies according to the connection size of the property. For example, a 50 mm connection will have a R718.72 monthly charge, while a 20 mm one a R115 monthly charge. In a public statement, Executive Director of Water and Waste Management Services, Dr. Gisela Kaiser, said that the City is selling half the volume of water it used to and could no longer afford the cost of running water and sanitation.

The water delivery charge will be compulsory for 95 percent of households, where only registered indigent residents will be excused while households with more than four people can apply for a large family adjustment factor.

Shaheed Mohamed, a water rights activist, told Elitsha that this will be a significant blow against both middle and lower class South Africans. “Just over a year ago the price of a litre was R4.67. At the moment it’s gone up to R33,” he said. Mohamed said he believes the city has taken these steps to work towards the privatisation of water.

“If you look at the water from rainfall just around the area, it’s much higher and a lot of the water is going to waste and not being used,” he said. “By design, the water crisis has been exacerbated deliberately in order to create a climate that has a need to justify the privatisation of water.”

Simon Maytham, Media Liaison Officer for the City, denied that there are plans to privatise the water provision.

Mohamed said he believes the City failed the people by not implementing a directed and specific irrigation system that would more efficiently use water in the agriculture sector as opposed to sprinklers. He said he does not believe this cost should fall on the people.

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“People are dying, but what happens if their water’s cut off because they can’t afford it. And there’s a fire? Whose responsible?” said Mohamed.

Ebrahiem Fourie, secretary of the Housing Assembly, said the rise in the water tariffs is going to negatively affect many residents.

“People are already living through restricted water terrors. Communities are faced with the forced installation of water management devices,” he said. “We were scared of running out, but business has continued as usual, and we know it’s about privatisation.”

As of 23 July, dam storage was at 56.4 percent according to the City, the highest it’s been in five years.

Maytham said that as the dams continue to fill up the tariffs will be lowered depending on whether the National Department of Water and Sanitation increases the City’s water allocation.

“The City must emphasise that we do not leverage the water supply system to subsidise other municipal services. All revenue recouped via the water tariffs is used within the service,” he said. “The price we would pay for running out of water completely is so catastrophic that it is in our best interests to make this investment in case drought conditions do become more common.”

Justice 4 Cape Town, a collective of pensioners and community activists, is organising a mass march at 11 a.m. on Saturday, 28 July to the City Council in Cape Town.

This march is “to protest against high water tariffs and the negative impact on pensioners and the elderly tenants of Communicare. We condemn the evictions of pensioners and the poor. Our pensions cannot keep up with the rising cost of living,” reads the press release from Justice 4 Cape Town.

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