The Phiri water struggle

In 2004 the City of Johannesburg installed prepayment water meters in Phiri (Soweto). The residents – together with a social movement, the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) – mobilised to protest against this. They told their councillors that they didn’t want prepayment water meters because they resulted in automatic disconnection and left them for days on end without water because the Free Basic Water supply wasn’t enough to provide adequate water to multi-dwelling stands with backyard shacks. Finally, the residents got lawyers to help them and went to court. When in 2009 the Constitutional Court handed down judgment in the case, it was not in favour of the Phiri applicants. However, the community’s opposition to the prepayment water meters and their mobilisation in the media and around the court case ensured that the City understood that prepayment water meters were unpopular. As a result, the City provided additional Free Basic Water to poor residents of Johannesburg, through the Expanded Social Package. It also replaced the old prepayment water meters with new ones that don’t automatically disconnect after the Free Basic Water Supply is finished (Mazibuko).