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On August 15, 2002, a group of South African activists faces trial for their actions defending access to water and electricity services. Take a moment to learn about the struggle.

Though the national government has promised a “lifeline” of free basic access to water and power to every household, the reality in townships like Soweto is that thousands of poor families are being cut off from these essential services or facing huge rate increases, with many being evicted from their homes. Across the country, nearly 10 million people (almost a quarter of the country) have been cut off from water and electricity because they could not pay their bills, with about 7.5 million losing access to both water and power. Two million people have been evicted for failure to pay water or electricity bills. At the same time, local and national governments continue to push privatization of public services.

In April 2002, members of the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee gathered in front of Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo’s home, protesting against water and electricity rate hikes, disconnections and privatization. They were also angry the mayor wasn’t delivering on his election promise of free basic water and electricity services. When it became clear the mayor wasn’t getting the message, the protesters spontaneously decided to give him a taste of his own medicine by cutting off his water and power.

The mayor’s bodyguard responded by firing shots into the crowd, wounding two protesters. Nearly 90 protesters were arrested, many were held for 11 days in a notoriously dangerous jail before appearing in court.

On August 15, many of these activists go on trial in Johannesburg. Join the campaign to press for charges to be dropped, and lend your voice to the campaign to ensure all South Africans have access to water and power services as basic human rights. Let the mayor know the world is watching.

Click here to send a letter to Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo.

For more background, visit the Queen’s University Municipal Services Project, at www.qsilver.queensu.ca/~mspadmin/. CUPE is a research partner in this ground-breaking project.

The South African Anti-Privatisation Forum is on the web at www.apf.org.za. The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) has played a key role supporting grassroots anti-cutoff and anti-eviction campaigns across the country. SAMWU has also taken a strong stand against privatization. Visit them on the web at www.cosatu.org.za/samwu.