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Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2000 13:10:51 +0200
Reply-To: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Anna Weekes <samwu@WN.APC.ORG>
Organization: SAMWU
Subject: SAMWU Press Statement: Union to oppose changes to water law

Union to oppose changes to water law

SAMWU Press Statement
Friday 9 June 2000 1:30pm

The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) is very concerned about statements made by the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, Ronnie Kasrils, yesterday.

The Minister, while releasing draft regulations which will allow local authorities to appoint private companies to provide water services, announced that publi-private partnerships would be set up to provide water in the country's rural areas.

SAMWU will rigorously oppose these regulations and will seek to engage with the Minister at the earliest date. The union believes that these regulations undermine clause 19.2 of the Water Services Act which says water must be delivered by local government, and not the private sector. The regulations also undermine the spirit of the act, which is firmly in favour of water as a public service and not a commodity.

The union sees the Minister's statement that the Water Services Act is "anti-business" as ridiculous. Water is not a business or a profit making good but a basic human right and a service necessary to sustain life.

Although the new regulations have not yet been subject to the normal process of public comment, they are making far reaching proposals that could see water being delivered by private companies on the basis of financial sustainability, not need. 30 year privatisation contracts are also suggested.

Lengthy private water contracts have failed all over the world. Last month Grenoble City Council in France fired the private water company, brought the water back under the control of the municipality and cut prices.

That the regulations are gazetted patricularly in the context of rural areas is extremely problematic. The introduction of private companies as acceptable water service providers means that many rural citizens will never get access to running, but privatised water. The new regulations say that local government is allowed to outsource the responsibility for water delivery to a private provider and this is going to sabotage poor and rural areas where there is no possibility of people being able to pay high prices for water.

SAMWU fully supports the views taken by the Rural Services Development Network that water should not be privatised and that all citizens need a minimum of 50 litres per person per day free of charge. The union will strongly oppose any increases in the price of water, as special adviser to the minister, Janet Love, said might occur in areas where services were undeveloped.

For comment, please phone Lance Veotte of SAMWU on 021 6971151

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