PRE-PAID WATER METERS HERE TO STAY

MINISTER of Water and Environmental Affairs Buyelwa Sonjica has no plans to scrap the controversial pre-paid water meters or to introduce more free water for the poor.

MINISTER of Water and Environmental Affairs Buyelwa Sonjica has no plans to scrap the controversial pre-paid water meters or to introduce more free water for the poor.

Although the ANC campaigned against the City of Cape Town's pre-paid water meters in the run-up to the elections, Sonjica said her department was not opposed to the devices.

"As long as the free basic water allocation is guaranteed, I wouldn't quarrel with the pre-paid watersystem," she said.

She said she would have to visit communities such as Soweto and see the meters in action before taking a finaldecision.

The Gauteng South high court has ruled that the installation of the pre-paid meters in Phiri, Soweto, was unconstitutional because it discriminated against poor people.

The court said it was unfair to have people who live in luxury and stay in suburbs using water on credit, while the poor were expected to pay in advance for the service.

Speaking at a press briefing in Parliament yesterday, Sonjica said an increase in the free 6000 litres of water allocated to every household was "not in the pipeline".

Sonjica acknowledged that communities had complained about the quantity of free water not being enough.

She said the government would see what could be done for the country's poorest families, "but people need to appreciate that we are a water-scarcecountry".

Sonjica also said herministry would set up environmental courts to crack down on syndicates involved in environmental crime.

"We all know that the Chinese mafia is stealing our abalone," she said.

"I have to take my gloves off and take them on. It has to happen."

Sonjica also said she would ensure that black fishermen were brought back into the fishingindustry.

"We will not allow a concentration of rights in one community, while you exclude the majority," she said.

She said the department's Blue Scorpions would go after polluting mines and municipalities that allowed raw sewerage to spill into rivers, infecting small children with fatalillnesses.

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