Court rules prepaid water meters not illegal

The Constitutional Court decided on Thursday that Johannesburg prepaid water meters are not illegal, as opponents of the devices have claimed.

Lindiwe Mazibuko and a group of Phiri, Soweto, residents had challenged the installation of the meters, saying they were not covered by the city bylaws.

They also wanted the monthly free water allocation increased from six kilolitres to 50 kilolitres.

They won their case in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, which found the installation of the water meters was unfair and unlawful and that the city should provide 50 kilolitres of free water.

When this was appealed, the Supreme Court said 42 litres would be enough and that the meters were unlawful because they weren’t covered by bylaws.

The Constitutional Court said all the parties in court believed the old system of supplying water was unsustainable and had to be changed.

But the applicants believed the way it was changed was unlawful and unfair and breached their right to sufficient water.

The court said the City of Johannesburg accepted it had a continuing obligation to progressively achieve the right of access to sufficient water.

“The court notes that is implicit in the concept of progressive realisation that it will take time before everyone has access to sufficient water.”

At least 80% of the residents had accepted the meters and were happy with them.

The court also ruled that it was not for the residents to decide how much water people should get, but for government.—Sapa

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