Victorious Phiri residents say the struggle continues

FIRST STEP: Jennifer Makhotsoane of Phiri Soweto points to the water meter at her four-roomed house. Pic. Dudu Busani. 04/05/08. © Sowetan.
FIRST STEP: Jennifer Makhotsoane of Phiri Soweto points to the water meter at her four-roomed house. Pic. Dudu Busani. 04/05/08. © Sowetan.

Dudu Busani

Dudu Busani

Residents of Phiri, Soweto, are glad with their victory against Johannesburg Water over pre-paid water meters, but they say the struggle is not over.

Jennifer Makhotsoane, 37, one of the five Phiri residents who took the Johannesburg city council to court five months ago, said the court victory was just the first step and should not be the last as long as poor people are being exploited.

"Though we Phiri residents have succeeded in fighting for our rights, there are still other people in this country who do not have water at all," she said.

The Johannesburg high court ruled last Wednesday that pre-paid water meters were unconstitutional and oppressive.

Judge Moroa Tsoka ordered Johannesburg Water to scratch its policy of 25 litres of free water a person a day, and provide 50 litres instead, as demanded by the resi- dents.

The judge described the residents as poor, uneducated, elderly and ravaged by HIV-Aids, meaning the water provided to them was insufficient.

Makhotsoane and her neighbours argued during the court hearing that the free water provided by the council lasted for only a quarter of a month. After that they had to buy water.

In Makhotsoane's household there are nine people, including four children. The family depends on her elderly mother's pension.

"We were not even consulted when these meters were installed," Makhotsoane said. "Those who resisted had their water cut off. They did not take into consideration that we have large families."

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