Water cuts on hold for now

The court has interdicted Rand Water from cutting water supply to municipalities who are in debts.

The court has interdicted Rand Water from cutting water supply to municipalities who are in debts.

Published Apr 2, 2024


The implementation of water cuts as a debt-collection mechanism for outstanding debts, such as that which Rand Water recently applied in several municipalities in Gauteng, Free State and Mpumalanga, may possibly be a thing of the past.

The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, has ruled that an interdict for the restoration of water supply to six municipalities in these provinces is unnecessary as Rand Water has already stopped water cuts there.

The civil rights organisation turned to court against Rand Water, on an urgent basis, following the water supplier’s decision to reduce water supply to the various municipalities.

Although the court did not issue the interdict, it found that Rand Water’s water cuts were illegal at face value. It, however, said that AfriForum must approach the court again on an urgent basis for an interdict if it becomes aware of any similar water cuts by Rand Water.

The judgment follows after AfriForum served court documents on Rand Water earlier this month to restore full water pressure. AfriForum brought an urgent application asking for an interdict to compel Rand Water to restore full water supply to the municipalities concerned.

AfriForum said it was forced to bring an application after Rand Water issued a notice stating that it wants to reduce water pressure due to outstanding debt to various municipalities.

Those mentioned in the court application were: Emfuleni, Govan Mbeki, Lesedi, Rand West, Ngwathe and Merafong City Local Municipalities.

Water cuts had already been applied to the two latter municipalities.

After AfriForum issued the urgent court application, Rand Water made a U-turn and declared that it had started to restore the water supply. Rand Water admitted that it had not complied with statutory requirements and that it would comply in the future.

AfriForum, in its legal challenge, told the court that the decision to reduce water supply – even though it may be driven by operational or financial constraints – has far-reaching implications for the affected communities, especially for the most vulnerable.

It said Rand Water has placed an unnecessary burden on the already vulnerable communities, exacerbating existing socio-economic challenges.

“We are grateful that the water cuts have been stopped. The judgment will enable us to, by means of supplementary documents, approach the court in a very short time for an order to stop this malpractice as a debt-collection mechanism,” Petrus Coetzee, Advisor for Local Government Affairs at AfriForum said.

He added that they have tried to resolve the situation in such a way that the community’s rights would be protected, but Rand Water insisted that it will continue to apply debt collection measures.

“We took note of the astronomical amounts owed by these municipalities to Rand Water but were, however, left with no choice but to approach the court for the necessary order as our communities did not have the necessary access to clean water,” he said.

The solution to the mismanagement of the country’s municipalities certainly does not lie in the intrusion on people’s Constitutional rights, Coetzee said.

According to him, the solution to the water problem lies rather in the privatisation of service delivery and the private management of the funds.

“Most municipalities prove time and time again that they are incapable of applying transparent and efficient financial management. We would also like to see closer cooperation between water suppliers, government authorities and civil society organisations,” he added.

AfriForum, meanwhile, called on communities to notify the organisation of any water cuts implemented by Rand Water for debt-collection purposes.

Community members can send evidence to [email protected].

Pretoria News