Posted on: February 27, 2012 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

SA protest against privatisation of services, metering and billing, continues in 2012 while the state rolls out water, electricity, road toll and waste collection privatisation plans.

SA protest against services and billing privatisatoin continues in 2012 while the state rolls out water, electricity, road toll and waste privatisation plans.

The report is part of a larger drive to further privatise services. Municipal services meter reading, billing and debt recovery in most metros and towns are already in private contractors’ hands.

Some traffic enforcement trapping, fining and ‘debt’ recovery is also given to private contractors in South Africa. Organised protest started with a mass march by the Anti Privatisation Campaign four years ago, when hundreds of prepaid meters were torn up and dumped at Johannesburg Metro offices.

The former Apartheid state tried to enforce water payment in black townships, but communities united against what was seen as economic enslavement and exploitation.

In the SA democratic regime, several infrastructure, materials and information technology suppliers had gradually increased their share of state services ‘business’, which had grown to a total of around 50% of the economy in countries like the USA.

Economic commentators view state revenue and service as being outside the ‘real economy’. South Africa are among the countries creating state jobs to boost their economies.

The Free Market Foundation and other commentators warn that states and governments are short-circuiting the capitalist system with a false economy of so-called ‘services jobs’ geared only to enriching credit providers.

While communists blame the credit crunch and economic slowdown on the capitalist system, capitalists point out that msot of the blame for unsustainable credit and falce economy is on socialist trends in governments worldwide.

State job creation and privatisation of service delivery to unscrupulous suppliers, usually well connected to governments, is one of the leading causes of state governance collapse and corporate governance failure.

The net result is more serious than leaking water pipes, as evidenced by several civil regine changes last year, said commentatars at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Irish protest against water meters

Irish people are pitched in a similar privatisation battle. In 2012 homes in Ireland are being fitted with water meters to enforce payment for services.

The roll out of the scheme is part of a three year project to install meters in a million Irish homes.

Water charges are part of the bailout deal struck with the EU and the IMF, starting with a flat rate.

Irish Environment minister Phil Hogan has defended the introduction of an “interim household utility charge“ for local councils, but it is criticized as a flat rate water charge by another name.

Results of a probe on a new Irish water company will be presented in October, followed by establishment of a water company in Ireland.

Waste services stalemate

A plan to increase waste collection and disposal privatisation, supported by the Instutute of Waste Management of Southern Africa, IWMSA, was reported on SHEQaafrica.com in February 2012.

Hazardous and medical waste treatement and disposal is already in private hand, supported by increasingly oenerous leglslation on waste generators, and plagued by policy indecision, impracticalities, lack of competition, high prices, poor service and low investment levels.

Efforts to separate, recover, re-use and recycle resources from domestic waste, remain stalled while municipalities continue lucrative contracts with suppliers of expensive ‘one stream’ waste collection equipment, waste disposal liners and site developers.

Vested interests among contractors are also capitalising on typically poor public services, admin and IT failures, with SA state IT contracts a glaring example of escalating costs and fruitless expenditure.

SA attempts to fix services billing chaos

Divided responsibility between billing and meter management results in poor billing, incorrect information capture, poor maintenance and lack of conservation data access by various suppliers, departments and billing contractors, said the SA Water Research Commission (WRC).

The report, ‘Introduction to Integrated Water Meter Management, Edition 1’, covers water meters and water metering in municipalities, theoretical principles of meters, legal and metrological requirements, meter types, best practice guidelines and meter management.

The guide is a management and training aid for water utility managers, engineering technical staff, operations, maintenance, meter readers and researchers.

The project was led by Prof Fred van Zyl of University of Cape Town, with admin support by University of Johannesburg (UJ). Prof Van Zyl explained a “legal imperative on municipalities to meter consumers and manage water losses in compliance with legislation and standards”’.

Water leaks, theft, billing errors

Jay Bhagwan, WRC director of Water Use and Waste Management, said reliable supply of clean and healthy water is the most important local authority service.

South Africa has made great strides in addressing the inequalities of the past in the provision of water, but unfortunately the focus on providing more people with water has caused many distribution systems to be neglected, resulting in increased levels of leakage and non-revenue water, poor billing practices and a loss of income to municipalities.

“It is vital to maximise volume of water metered, at minimum cost. Selection, management and maintenance of meters are critical”, said Bhagwan.

Simon Scruton, manager of eThekwini Metro Water and Sanitation in Durban, said the guide is easy to follow and valuable in meter selection, installation, operation, maintenance and replacement’’.  Sources; APC, WRC, SHEQafrica.com, FMF.

• Request Report TT 490/11 from the WRC.

PHOTO; Johannesburg residents are among SA citizens protesting against services privatisation, following bad examples of privatisation of water, electricity, traffic and other services elsewhere in Africa and Europe.

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