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The South African Municipal Workers Union is hosting a Southern Africa Solidarity Workshop against privatization. Unions from Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa are attending the three day workshop.

SAMWU is hosting the meeting because:

  • Nearly all research into privatization in Africa is sponsored by the World Bank - the meeting will gather information collected by the trade unions.
  • The pace of privatization of water and energy in African countries has increased in the last two years and there have already been major African privatization failures during this period.
  • All Southern African municipal workers need to come up with a common programme to fight the privatization of municipal services.

SAMWU has already formed an anti water privatisation partnership with civil society in Ghana.

The workshop will also decide upon a date for a Southern African day of action against privatization.

Many privatizations in Africa have failed, at a high cost to governments who have to bail the service out. In Africa, only three French companies have dominated the 18 major African privatizations in the past two years.

Electricity is being privatised in Zimbabwe and South Africa with major tariff increases in the pipeline.

Privatization has become a breeding ground for corruption in Africa with contracts awarded in secret and without competitive tendering. Two recent contracts to French Vivendi (in Chad and Kenya) revealed no financial details of the agreements.

Privatization has also led to suffering for workers and wasting of public money.

In Kenya, water billing was privatised without tender by Nairobi City Council, leaving 3,500 workers out of jobs. The workers were replaced by 45 managers earning between R11 million - R21 million per year. Consumers had to cover the costs of a new R140 million billing system introduced by the private company.

Although Africa has limited attractions for investors in water, because users cannot afford high tariffs and private companies may not be able to generate sufficient returns, privatisation is still pushed by the World Bank.

Mozambique was only given debt relief after it agreed to privatise its water.

In Cameroon, the government had only a few days to meet the World Bank targets on the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility review.

The water utility, Sonec, was literally privatised overnight to the only bidder - French multinational, Suez-Lyonnaise des Eaux - so the government could pass the review and qualify for debt relief.

Sonec is also bidding on the contract to build and run a sewage plant in Halifax Nova Scotia.