'City discriminated against Phiri residents'

SW20041006PMO046:NEWS:PEOPLE:06OCT2004 - 20041006PMO NEWS: Installing of the pre-paid meters at Phiri Soweto yesterday PIC:PETER MOGAKI. 06/10/2004. © SOWETAN
SW20041006PMO046:NEWS:PEOPLE:06OCT2004 - 20041006PMO NEWS: Installing of the pre-paid meters at Phiri Soweto yesterday PIC:PETER MOGAKI. 06/10/2004. © SOWETAN

THE City of Joburg took away the dignity of residents of Phiri, Soweto, when they were denied a right to chose the water system they preferred, the Constitutional Court was told yesterday.

Advocate Wim Trengove, who represents residents of Phiri in their battle against the city over the installation of prepaid water system, said the residents should be given a choice like in white areas.

"If the system is good for black residents of Phiri, why is it not good for white Johannesburg?" asked Trengove. "The city cannot have a different policy for black residents of Phiri and adopt another for a white Johannesburg.

"It is discrimination not to offer residents of Phiri, who are black, the option of a credit system that is offered to whites in Parktown."

Trengove said residents were not consulted and their opinion on the prepaid meter system was not sought when it was installed.

Trengove argued that the system does not allow the affected residents reasonable period to approach council to make presentation in case they could not afford to pay. "The prepaid is unlawful and is not authorised by by-laws. Before water is cut off, people should be afforded an opportunity to make presentation, but the prepaid system does not allow that opportunity," he said.

Gilbert Marcus, who represented the City of Joburg, said the prepaid water system was not only meant for residents of Phiri, but had been extended to other areas like Cosmo City. "Prepaid is not confined to Soweto. It has been introduced to all developing areas. In Parktown, there was no problem of unaccounted water loss or rate boycott," he said.

He said before the system was installed, the city made losses due to non-payment. He also said there was sufficient warning before water could be cut, and based on individual circumstances, residents could approach the city.

Residents are applying for leave to appeal against the Supreme Court of Appeal judgment concerning the right to access to sufficient water. The application continues today.

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