Open Letter to Dr Job Amupanda

Children wait to collect water at a communal standpipe. Photo The Namibian

Dear Mayor,

As I listened to the proceedings of the council meeting on 14 April that debated the issue of prepaid water, it brought to mind a woman I met many years ago that you should know about. I was doing field research into the effects of prepaid water meters when I first met Lydia* in 2003.

No easy solution

Prepaid water is being marketed as an easy solution that would make it easier to manage household water use and debt, but the fact is it is also an automatic cut-off device, meaning people might be stuck without water when they need it most and can least afford it.

Punishing the poor

In trying to solve the corporate financial crisis by transferring the burden to the poor, you’ve not tackled the root cause of the problem of social inequality and poverty, but only added to the many burdens that already weigh on the working class. In fact, according to your proposed tariffs, prepaid customers will pay around 50% more per kiloliter of water than post-paid customers! How is that helping the poor?

Access to water is a fundamental right

Access to water should be a right, not a privilege reserved for those with cash. By taking “aggressive” control of the water supply, as you promised to, council would in effect be holding every household to ransom for cash up-front payment under threat of cutting their lifeline of water supply through a system that automatically filters out the cashless poor.

To deny water to the weak and vulnerable violates every sense of human decency and social justice.

It is difficult to predict the number and scale of tragedies that may result from this policy but from experience we can predict that women and children will bear the brunt of it, and it is clearly dangerous to proceed without caution.

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