27 March 2009 – The Supreme Court in South Africa confirmed a ruling that the City’s supply of free water to residents in Soweto should be reviewed. The court also ordered that account holders who were registered as indigent should receive 42 litres of water for free each day for each resident.
The Supreme Court’s decision follows a ruling by Judge Moroa Tsoka in the Joburg High Court on 30 April 2008 that the City of Johannesburg’s implementation of a pre-payment water system in Phiri was "unconstitutional and unlawful", and that the City must give households the option of a credit meter.
Tsoka also ruled that limiting free basic water to six kilolitres per household per month – 25 litres per person per day on the assumption of eight people per household – was reviewable, and that the City must give each person 50 litres of free water per person per day.
However, Johannesburg was granted leave to appeal. The member of the mayoral committee for infrastructure, Roslyn Greeff welcomed the court’s decision on Wednesday, and that it had been given a period of two years to legalise the use of prepaid meters.
"The City will look at the legal implications and introduce the required by-laws to legalise this situation … [It] will study the entire judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal and its implications for service delivery and seek legal advice on how to proceed."
The free water is part of Joburg’s social package of free basic services for indigent residents. It delivers on a R355-million social package that includes the supply of free water services, free sanitation and refuse removal to particular vulnerable groups. Basic water services in Johannesburg are heavily subsidised and supplied below cost.
"Our records over the past number of years show the important steps we have taken to support the poor and the indigent," said Greeff.