n Law, Democracy & Development - The case of Johannesburg water : what really happened at the pre-paid 'Parish pump'

Volume 12, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1028-1053
  • E-ISSN: 2077-4907



At around two o'clock in the morning on 27 March 2005, Phiri resident Vusimuzi Paki awoke to the shouts of a tenant who was trying to put out a fire in one of the other backyard shacks on Paki's property. Assisted by neighbours, the first crucial minutes were spent trying to extinguish the fire using the pre-paid water meter supply that the Johannesburg Water company had recently installed to control the residents' water supply. However, the water pressure was insufficient to make much impact on the fire and, after a while, the pre-paid meter water supply automatically disconnected due to insufficient water credit. Residents were then forced to scoop up ditch water with buckets in a desperate attempt to put out the fire. More minutes passed. One neighbour tried to telephone the police at Moroka police station but no-one answered the phone. After battling for an hour, residents finally put out the fire, but not before the shack had burnt to the ground. It was only after Paki's tenant returned home from her night shift that everyone discovered to their horror that her two small children had been sleeping in the shack. They both died in the fire.

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