News / South Africa

Vicky Abraham
2 minute read
31 Mar 2017
5:46 am

Joburg’s plan to do away with ‘free’ water may lead to protests, warns expert

Vicky Abraham

It was revealed that domestic residents will see an increase of R42.84 per month on their water bills from the start of the new financial year.

Tap file picture.

A water expert is warning that  the City of Joburg’s plan to do away  with the provision of 10 kilolitres of free water to all residents may spark protests and some legal challenges.

On Thursday, the city announced that domestic customers, who do not qualify as indigents, will see an increase of R42.84 per month on their water bills from the start of the 2017-18 financial year.

Only registered indigent households on the city’s expanded social package programme will receive between 10 kilolitres  and 15 kilolitres free per month.

The city believes the move could generate more than R320 million more in revenue annually which will help to improve service delivery.

But professor of water engineering and head of the Water Research Group based in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Witwatersrand, Professor Akpofure Taigbenu, said it could lead to protests.

There are those who will feel aggrieved at being deprived of what was formerly a free water supply,  he pointed out.

“There could be some justification for this move, except that in implementing it the administrative burden may be so high that it could annul the goal they are trying to achieve.

“Six kilolitres should be supplied to every household [free] and only on top of you then bill the consumer.

“The policy was there to ensure that inequalities are erased and the legacy of apartheid is not given expression to, so when you deprive individuals of access to free basic water that could lead to protests,” said Taigbenu.

He also said it was crucial to properly notify all stakeholders about the change because failing to do so could also result in legal actions against the city.

The city’s mayor Herman Mashaba said that much could be achieved with an additional R320 million in revenue.

“It could be used to build an additional 2 597 housing units or electrify an additional 70 informal settlements, or to extend operating hours at an additional 61 clinics,” said Mashaba.

He said the new administration, which took over last year,  was unapologetically pro-poor and that this was an essential step in ensuring that the poorest in society are protected.

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