/ 14 May 2008

Jo’burg to appeal water-meter ruling

The City of Johannesburg will appeal a high court ruling that found forcibly installing prepaid water meters is unconstitutional, mayor Amos Masondo said on Wednesday.

In a speech prepared for delivery, Masondo said the city had consulted its lawyers, who had carefully considered the judgement regarding meters in Phiri, Soweto, and found that it was ”distorted”.

It therefore intended to lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

”Our basis for appeal will be set out systematically in legal argument.

”We believe the judgement has been distorted somewhat and would like to place our perspective on the matter,” he said.

On April 30 the high court ruled that the meters were an infringement on the constitutional rights of people to have access to sufficient water.

The court further increased the free basic water supply from 25 litres per person per day to 50 litres per person per day in Phiri.

The city was further directed to give the residents of Phiri the option of an ordinary credit metered water supply.

The judgement was considered historic as it was the first judgement in which the constitutional right to water was explicitly raised.

Judge M P Toska said: ”Twenty-five litres per person a day is insufficient for the residents of Phiri,” whom he described as ”poor, uneducated, elderly, sick, ravaged by HIV/Aids and reliant on state pensions and grants”.

Toska found that increasing the free basic water supply would not put significant strain on the city’s water and financial resources, especially if free basic water already supplied to rich households was redistributed to the poor.

The judgement followed a challenge to the City of Johannesburg’s Operation Gcin’Amanzi by a small group of residents in Phiri. — Sapa