A Cry for Water: Cape Town’s Urgent Plea for Equity Before Christmas

In the city of Cape Town, where disparities in water access have created a stark divide, the African Water Commons Collective issued a passionate plea to Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis and city officials. In an open letter addressed to the Mayor, the collective outlined ten urgent demands that, if unmet, threaten to cast a shadow over the festive season for the majority of Cape Town’s residents.

The letter, written by representatives of over 15 water action committees from across the city’s townships, opens with a stark reality: 13% of the population consumes over half of the city’s water, leaving the remaining 87% grappling with insufficient access, exorbitant bills, and dire health consequences. The situation has been exacerbated by the implementation of a new water management system that disproportionately impacts the less privileged.

Demands for Change:

  1. End Automatic Water Arrears Deductions: The collective demands an end to the practice of automatically deducting water arrears from electricity purchases, a system that leaves families with neither electricity nor water.
  2. Open Water Taps at Schools: With the advent of diarrhoea season, the collective requests the opening of water taps at all schools, alleviating the burden on families already struggling with inadequate water intake.
  3. Address Leaks and Blocked Drains: Urgent action is needed to fix leaks and blocked drains, which contribute to health hazards in communities already burdened by apartheid-era problems.
  4. Decouple Grants from Arrears and Debt: The collective calls for a reassessment of the link between grants and arrears, emphasizing that those without financial means are the ones most likely to accumulate water debt.
  5. Fair Treatment of Pensioners: Stop pressuring and threatening pensioners with water restriction devices, offering instead debt relief and assurance that they can keep their homes.
  6. End Unwanted Meter Installations: Halt the practice of billing households for the installation of meters they did not agree to and provide promised debt relief for struggling families.
  7. Abandon Flow-Restriction Technologies: Reject all flow-restriction technologies and cut-offs, advocating for the opening of taps and a ban on the controversial drip system.
  8. Tax Corporations and the Rich: Call for fair taxation of corporations and the wealthy, pointing out the unequal distribution of water usage in the city.
  9. Solidarity with Gaza: Extend support to Gaza, highlighting the global issue of water weaponization and demanding an end to the blockade.
  10. Prompt Response and Accountability: The collective implores the City of Cape Town to respond to these demands before the year ends, urging a prioritization of people over profit.

The Countdown to response

The letter concludes with a call for a written response to the ten issues before the year-end break, an invitation for representatives to attend the City Council meeting, and a request for city officials to address the collective in person on December 7, 2023.

As Cape Town approaches the festive season, the African Water Commons Collective stands firm in its resolve: “No Holiday Without Water For Life.” The city now holds the responsibility to ensure that this season brings not just celebration but a renewed commitment to equitable water access for all.

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