The Human Right to Water in South Africa

By Eric Cherry

One of the Social Justice partners that UUA President Sinkford met with during his November 2008 Pilgrimage to Africa was the Coalition Against Water Privatization (CAWP). CAWP has led the grassroots struggle in South Africa to assure access to safe drinking water, especially in low-income neighborhoods. Leaders provided Sinkford and his companions with a crash-course in the reality of the struggle against Water Privatization in South Africa, and specifically in the community of Phiri in Soweto. CAWP leaders described the scheme developed by the City of Johannesburg to privatize the city's water supply, and specifically the installation of a pre-paid water meters in neighborhoods in Soweto. CAWP won a crucial judicial victory that labeled these efforts as unconstitutional, though during President Sinkford's visit that ruling was still under appeal.
On March 25, 2009 the South African Appellate Court issued a new ruling which the UU Service Committee describes as
upholding in part the [original] trial court's decision ordering the City of Johannesburg and its local water authority to change how they provide water to residents in Phiri, a low-income community in Soweto. However, the appellate court declined to affirm the trial court's constitutional finding as to the illegality of the water authority's practice of forcibly installing prepaid meters in those neighborhoods. Community groups plan to appeal this and other elements of the appellate decision. (Full Story)

Following the ruling, CAWP organizers described his continuing commitment to fight for the human right to water in his community and around the world. The UUSC has a variety of resources to help UU congregations become involved as well.

About the Author

Eric Cherry

Eric was the Director of the UUA’s International Office since August 2007. Prior to this Eric served for 12 years as a parish minister with UU congregations in Burlington, Iowa and N. Easton, Massachusetts. Eric has long been involved in the UU Partner Church movement, serving as the English...


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