Water and Electricity Services in Cape Town: How Post-Apartheid Policies Resulted in Disconnected Households

Special Report: Networks in Cities of the Global South
By Marie Plancq-Tournadre

Based on the case study of Cape Town, this paper explores the origins of the contemporary increase of disconnections in South-African cities. Post-apartheid public policies were guided by two principles: redistribution and the normalization of the groups that had been castoff by the racist government. The redistribution principle was enacted though a large scale program aiming at housing low-income households in dwellings equipped with basic infrastructure services; the normalization principle, through a general obligation to pay services accounts. The combination of those two policies resulted in numbers of disconnections for non payment, mainly because of the amount of the accounts compared to household income. The paper also emphasizes the diversity of disconnected households, which results for a large part from the use of two cost recovery technologies: the traditional meter and the pre payment meter.

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