Take Action Publications Press Room About Public Citizen Public Citizen Divisions Home
Promoting a sustainable energy future

JOIN US! |Take Action | Publications | About Energy Program | Contact Us

For Keyword(s)
advanced search

Email Signup

Sign up for our free activist updates.

South Africa

When South Africa emerged from decades of apartheid rule in 1994 expectations for reform were high. The new African National Congress (ANC) government promised water for all – in a country where only the minority, the white people, had access to piped drinking water. This access was subsidized by the poor black minority – a policy the new ruling party wanted to change.


Access to drinking water has been improved over the past decade, in 2000 86% of the population had access to improved water services. But improvements have come at a high price. The government has relied on cost-recovery policies and privatization to deliver water. As a result 10 million households were cut off from water in 2001 – more households than the government had managed to connect in the previous 6 years. Concurrently a 3-year cholera epidemic affecting over 100,000 people broke out after decades without this preventable disease. The same year, the government embarked on an internationally praised project designed to provide free water for people. In fact, this program provides 8KL of water to each household, disadvantaging the poorest large households without access to piped water. According to the WHO, 8KL water would provide for the very basic needs for a family of 8, but not sufficient for long term survival or a dignified life. Furthermore, the policy has awarded free water to only the most advantaged municipalities leaving the poor municipalities with a heavier burden. In order to receive sufficient quantities for dignified living poor households spend up to one fourth of their available income on water.

The South African government claims that the World Bank has no influence over national policies, but leaked World Bank documents have proven that World Bank consultants continues to advise the South African government on public utilities. World Bank track record shows that they have one piece of advice in their bag: privatization.


South Africa has a vibrant civil society that is not easily blinded by the sweet talk of the government, and pays attention to the lack of results. The Anti-Privatization Forum has been very vocal and supports a large network of community groups in their education efforts. The Municipal Services Project and ILRIG provides important research on the socio-economic impact of essential service policies.

Current privatization contracts in South Africa:

Water and trade in South Africa: The GATS, South African Local Governments and Water Services

In the News:
Sept. 1: Cape Town opts against prepaid water 
GOOD NEWS: Aug. 31: 
Mayor Mfeketo sinks water meter idea 
Aug. 12: Women still at the bottom of the heap 
Aug: Interview with a South African Water Activist 
Jun. 29: Joburg municipality writes-off R510m in arrears 
Jun. 29: Water price set to rise 
Jun. 29: Pipeline from Vaal to Secunda in 2007 
Jun. 23: Department sets timetable for water reform 

Oct. 19: Exploitation on tap: Why is Britain using aid money to persuade South Africa to privatise its public services? 
Oct. 5: Police clash with Soweto protesters
Aug. 18: Soweto Resists ANC Privatization Moves
Aug. 18: ANC Privatizations Fail to Deliver in South Africa
Aug. 13: Community to fight water laws
Aug. 13: South African water price hike 'largest in world'
The battle over water in South Africa 
Jul. 27: Johannesburg Water's Prepaid Meters Wreak Havoc In The Lives Of People In Phiri, Soweto
Jul. 17: Eroding the Commons: Prepaid Water Meters In Phiri, Soweto
Apr. 2: Pre-Paid Water of None at All - Johannesburg Water Victimises Sowetan Households
Feb. 10: Prepaid water meters in South Africa

Sept. 20: Free trade is war 
Sept. 8: Battle Against 'Prepaid' Water Erupts
Mar. 22: Secret Contracts Row Puts Spotlight on Water Management
Feb. 5: Metered to Death: How a Water Experiment Caused Riots and a Cholera Epidemic

Water for All initiated a new collaborative website to help coordinate our global campaign focusing on the water transnational, Suez. The website is tri-lingal and collects information regarding the abuses, problematic projects, community protests, and exploitative policies of Suez, Go to:
English - www.stopsuez.org
Spanish - www.fuerasuez.org
French - www.arretonssuez.org

    » cmep | Water | cmep Water | reports | southafrica

Because Public Citizen does not accept funds from corporations, professional associations or government agencies, we can remain independent and follow the truth wherever it may lead. But that means we depend on the generosity of concerned citizens like you for the resources to fight on behalf of the public interest. If you would like to help us in our fight, click here.

Join | Contact PC | Contribute | Site Map | Careers/Internships| Privacy Statement