South Africa: Water privatisation

Fifty two activists arrested under Apartheid law

 

Arrest at water meter protest in Phiri, Soweto, Sept 2003
Arrest at water meter protest in Phiri, Soweto, Sept 2003

On March 21 police opened fire with stun grenades on members of the Gauteng Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) who were protesting against water privatisation and the installation of pre-paid water meters. Fifty-two APF members were arrested, including 6 children, on charges of violating the Gatherings Act. This Act is a piece of law dating from the Apartheid era which gives police broad powers to ban or otherwise interfere with legitimate protest action. Increasing censorship and use of apartheid laws are being used to suppress dissent and social activism in South Africa according to the International Freedom Of Expression eXchange.

This follows the formation of the coalition against water privatisation in South Africa and protests against prepaid water meters in Phiri, Soweto, in September 2003 (Photos). With South Africans elections due April 14th, the struggles continue in South Africa, even as the corporate media encourages the belief that the ANC has brought happiness and freedom to its people.

South Africa IMC | Water Privatisation | Blue Gold - The global water crisis

The Gatherings Act is a piece of law dating from the Apartheid era which gives police broad powers to ban or otherwise interfere with legitimate protest action. On Thursday, mere days before the action, the Johannesburg Metro Police denied permissions for the Coalition against Water Privatisation (the original organisers of the protest) to protest, on the grounds that the protest would be violent (no previous APF protest marches have been violent), would disrupt traffic (on a Sunday!) and would constitute a threat to law and order. The Coalition, with the assistance of one of its member organisations - The Freedom of Expression Institute - immediately drew-up appeal papers to get the ban overturned in court within the 24 hour 'window' allowed. However, in an unprecedented move, the Sheriff of the Court (who is designated as the formal 'server' of such papers) refused to carry out the expressed mandate of that office to serve such papers. When the Coalition's lawyers finally managed to secure a court hearing late on Friday, the magistrate dismissed the appeal on a technicality.



Today saw the opening of the new Constitutional Court building, yet ten years after the end of Apartheid, many poor South Africans are still denied their constitutional rights to water and other basic services. This is why the APF decided that today's march had to go ahead - Apartheid-era banning orders or not!



The arrests at Constitution Hill today bring to sixty the number of protestors arrested for violating the Gatherings Act this week. Eight people were arrested in Cape Town on Wednesday when they protested against the South African - Angolan decision to repatriate thousands of Angolans, despite a continuing lack of human rights in Angola. The protestors were charged with violating the Gatherings Act by extending their protest beyond the permitted time.



At the time of writing, the APF is negotiating to have its comrades released . Already, however, they face R5000 in bail and lawyer fees. Donations to the APF Legal Fund are requested, please deposit money in the following account:



Accountholder: Anti-Privatisation Forum

Account number: 62027851452

Bank Name: First National Bank

Branch code: 250-805

Branch Name: Bank City Branch

Street Address: 3 FIRST PLACE, BANKCITY, JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA

SWIFT code: FIRN ZAJJA046

Please email Dale McKinley at drdalet@metroweb.co.za if you deposit a payment or for updates on the APF detainees.


Breaking News All the comrades were released at 3am Monday morning, and they have to appear in court in Hillbrow Magistrates Court Tuesday. Supporters welcome (although we know tomorrow's appearance is only a formality and will simply result in a postponement)


For more background on water privatisation in South Africa:

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