Everyone has the right to water. It is enshrined in our constitution, and for city dwellers it is set at 25 litres for each person a day, by the UN among others.
Along with this right comes responsibilities: paying tax, for example, and obeying the laws of the land.
“But if the City of Cape Town takes away our free water they are removing our constitutional right, which the rich and poor share. Constitutionally the rich have the same right to free water as the poor,” says Milnerton resident David Lipschitz who is preparing to take the fight for fairness to the highest court in the land.
As the first step he served notice on Nomvula Mokonyane, the national Minister of Water and Sanitation, on February 8, who acknowledged receipt of the “peremptory mandamus” document.
A mandamus is a judicial writ issued as a command to an inferior court or ordering a person to perform a public or statutory duty.
Mr Lipschitz is in the process of submitting a mandamus to the Concourt. “Although Rule 4 11a of the Constitutional Court says that I need to be represented and Rule 12 says that under certain conditions the chief justice can ignore the Concourt rules”.
“A Mandamus happens when I want a higher court to order a lower court to obey a law. The only way that the court of ministers can be commanded to do their jobs is by the President telling them to do their jobs, or by the Constitutional Court telling them to do their jobs.
“A person using 4.2kl or less paid zero for water and zero for sewerage. But with the changes on February 1, this same person will be paying about R220 a month, an infinite increase,” Mr Lipschitz said.
“The government promulgated a new Water Act in 1998. Before then citizens and the state shared responsibility for water. After that the state took full responsibility because they ‘were going to redress the wrongs of the past’. Since then prices have increased dramatically as have government salaries but there was no investment in infrastructure.
“In 1994, 12% of income paid for salaries in government. Now it is over 35%.
“Taxes on electricity, water and fuel, etc, that three million taxpayers shoulder, which are meant for infrastructure, are spent on grants, free electricity, water, education and health care for 18 million people getting these grants. So the government is paying 18 million people to vote for it,” Mr Lipschitz said.
According to the Northwood Group, a financial services provider, although South Africa has an estimated 6.2 million taxpayers, it seems that South Africa’s tax base is growing comfortably.
“However, since fewer than 5 million of these registered taxpayers actually pay tax, the figures soon start to appear smaller than meets the eye.
“The Solidarity Research Institute recently reported that 2.9 million taxpayers contributed 99% of the country’s income tax, a tiny fraction of the country’s population and a group of people who are likely to be taxed more heavily as government spending is increased over the next few years,” Northwood said.
It is wrong for political parties to blame each other for lack of delivery because they have joint responsibility for delivery.
And in a constitutional democracy, the constitution protects minorities.
“The constitution does not protect us unless we invoke it. The Concourt is a common law court where everything is by precedent and where civil laws can be tested to see if they are valid. It is also the place where one goes if people are disobeying constitutional rights such as our right to water, and it is the minister’s responsibility to provide for this,” said Mr Lipschitz, who, after a lot of research and study, took the little-known step on July 4 (2016) of deregistering as a voter, “so that I can exercise my constitutional and common law right to represent myself in Parliament”.
The constitution allows for people to register as voters, which then assigns the right to an agent (political party) to represent them in parliament, and in a constitutional democracy, the majority party effectively represents everyone.
“Not voting is not the same as deregistering. If you don’t vote, then you automatically vote for the winner. If you deregister, you become a common law citizen who can represent himself in Parliament,” said Mr Lipschitz who predicted that Day Zero could be March 7 when the dams could run out of water.
“Four million people without water is a war zone. We have already seen small outbreaks of water-related violence at train stations and supermarkets. Water has been stolen from people’s water tanks, water tanks have been stolen, and water has been stolen from garden taps. And then one needs to consider free-riders. In a normal society 60% of people don’t pay for stuff.
“So in Milnerton, about 40% of people are members of the Milnerton Crime Watch and the rest get these services free of charge. The same happens with roads. Taxpayers and corporates pay for the roads in the form of tax but everyone can use these road free of charge,” Mr Lipschitz said.