"Privatization is a new kind of apartheid"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu May 29 09:07:39 MDT 2003

NY Times, May 29, 2003
Water Tap Often Shut to South Africa's Poor

SHAKASHEAD, South Africa — The afternoon's end brings a rural rush hour 
of women walking down the dirt road that winds through this village. 
Many of them barefoot and dressed in rags, the mothers and grandmothers 
come pushing wheelbarrows or carrying big buckets to fetch water for 
their families.

But the road quickly becomes a divide between the haves and have-nots. 
Those with pennies to spend stand in line on one side and buy their 
water from a metered tap.

The larger group scoops water from a giant, littered mud puddle across 
the way. Sewage seeps in from leaky pipes nearby. Some of the women said 
that cholera had stricken their families. Workers at a mobile clinic 
have reported high rates of diarrhea among children here.

"I know it is not good to take water from this hole," said Nolulama 
Makhiwa, a 27-year-old mother of two. "But I am not working. I have no 
money. What else can I do?"

Not long after the country's first democratic government came to power 
in 1994, putting an end to white minority rule, the new government 
enshrined the right to "sufficient food and water" in its Constitution, 
and pledged to make water and sanitation available to every citizen by 
the end of 2010.

At the same time, the government also began to shift more of the 
financial burden of those promises to a population in which at least 
one-third of people live on less than $2 a day. Officials urged 
municipal water utilities to adopt "cost recovery" policies that require 
them at least to break even, if not turn a profit.

Municipalities have begun working to turn debt-ridden and inefficient 
water utilities into profitable operations that could attract private 
investment. A handful have already granted long-term management 
concessions to private multinationals.

Advocates argue that such policies have become conventional wisdom, 
helping governments around the world make ends meet while encouraging 
conservation. Not only here in South Africa, however, but also in other 
developing countries like Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina, privatization 
and water pricing have met strong resistance and public protests.

"Privatization is a new kind of apartheid," said Richard Makolo, leader 
of the Crisis Water Committee, which was formed to resist the 
privatization effort in a township called Orange Farm, 25 miles south of 
Johannesburg. "Apartheid separated whites from blacks. Privatization 
separates the rich from the poor."

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/29/international/africa/29WATE.html

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