Friday, July 21, 2006

Resistance to Privatization in South Africa

I just came back from a packed house of activists from around the world and a presentation by three master's students on their continuous work in Soweto and Jo-berg on the struggles against privatization of water and electricity (Anti-Privatization Forum) for the poor communities of the area. Interesting work by Prishani Naidoo, Trevor Ngwane and Ahmed Veriava on the idea of prepaid water and electricity meters in communities and the impact on behaviour, resistance, rights, and acceptance. Should there be a limit to the consumption of water or should it be a human right for all people? The assumption is that the poor will pay and 'learn' to not waste water and be good citizens by paying. Prepaid became a way to get people to pay when the parastatals could not stop the people who were not paying their bills. However, when does reducing the consumption of water start to affect how people behave in fighting over the use of water and finding ways to steal water because they simply cannot afford to pay the rates set. It is a never ending struggle to connect the working class together and organize to resist and fight for their constitutional right to water. We have not even covered how wastage is not 'learned' by the ruling class who fill their swimming pools, wash their driveways and cars. So 'who is the real thief' was the question arised by Trevor and where is the justice when the resources are controlled by the elite few? Trevor also eloquently puts an image of government by applying apartheid in an example of an individual on life support removed from the machines. However, now apartheid re-appears as commodification of resources like water and electricity as to how the body parts can be used for other purposes. Morbid example, but well put.

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