Several communities protest calling for an end to ‘water apartheid’

The African Water Commons Collective held a picket outside the Cape Town Civic Centre to demand an end to water apartheid. Picture: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers.

The African Water Commons Collective held a picket outside the Cape Town Civic Centre to demand an end to water apartheid. Picture: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers.

Published Dec 8, 2023


Cape Town - Pensioners struggling to take chronic medication without water, families unable to cook, clean and bathe while they battle to pay high water bills were some of the plights highlighted by several communities across the City, who gathered at the Cape Town Civic Centre, calling for an end to “water apartheid” in Cape Town and Gaza.

The picket yesterday was organised by the African Water Commons Collective (AWCC) and supported by African Artists Against Apartheid, Western Cape Water Caucus, SA Jews for a Free Palestine, the Witzenberg Justice Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and Environmental Monitoring Group, among others.

AWCC member from Silvertown in Malmesbury, Ebrahiem Fourie, said the residents shared similar issues like high bills, leaking pipes and water meter issues.

“You have elderly people in Beacon Valley that scrape ice out of the freezer to drink chronic medication. We have people asking, at night past 11, ‘Can you give me some water please?’ over the fence because they want to drink their tablets.

“We have people who pay (the water bill) with their entire pension. We have young girls who are at home when they have their monthly periods, they’re not going to school. They’re embarrassed because they cannot wash themselves.”

Fourie said one of the demands was for the scrapping of water bill arrears.

“The working class are not wasters of water, it’s for basic needs so we’re saying open the taps, scrap the arrears, scrap that conventional meter system, which is new technology, which means that as people, we are going to have a relationship with a meter box, same as with the electricity box, and that is killing our people.”

Belhar resident Meagan Biggs said their water was cut off on Wednesday without notice.

“I think they should allocate water for everyone, it should be free. Our clinics are full because our children are sick, they have diarrhoea since they can’t keep clean. So I wish that the City would listen to us and keep our water free.”

Youth Arise member and Siphamandla Secondary School in Khayelitsha student Busisiwe Lingani said: “We are tired of apartheid, we are tired of inequality. So we are fighting against that. We do get water every day but it’s not clean water. And also in our community when you go to Khayelitsha it’s very dirty. There’s sewage that they don't care about. So there’s still an issue of inequality and there’s still racism.”

AWCC member Faeza Meyer said residents are charged and forced to pay R4 000 for meter installation which they did not ask for.

GIWUSA Western Cape Secretary Abeedah Adams demanded that the DA renounce and denounce Israel.

“Our fight might be local but our fight is against imperialism. What is happening in Israel is imperialism and what is happening here against us, where we are fighting for water are all elements of imperialism so we need that unity.”

Community liaison officer for Mayco member for Water and Sanitation, Yanga Damane assured those present that a response to their list of demands would be received within the stipulated time.