Thulisile Christina Manqele.
One of the first community water activists to take her struggle against water disconnections to the South African courts died in June 2011 at the age of 46.
In a combined obituary, Director of the Centre for Civil Society Patrick Bond looks at the legacy of Thulisile Christina Manqele and compares it with that of former water minister Kader Asmal who died at the same time.
In 2002, Thulisile Christina Manqele, an unemployed mother of seven children (of which three were adopted), took her case to the Durban High Court.
Manqele sought a declaratory order that the discontinuation of the water supply was unlawful and invalid, under the terms of the Water Services Act of 1997, as the disconnection had resulted in the applicant and her dependants being denied access to basic water services when she was unable to pay for the services.
Manqele, a domestic worker, was already a member of activist group the Durban Social Forum, when she became ill, lost her job and saw her debt to the municipality rise to US$ 1,300. Then her water was cut off. Her fellow activists helped Manqele illegally reconnect the pipes.
In March 2000, Manqele’s lawyers won an injunction against the city of Durban but in the end the high court rejected her claim. Nevertheless, faced with mass protests against thousands of water disconnections which were linked to a cholera outbreak, Durban stopped outright disconnections and introduced ‘flow limiters’ instead.
Mangele’s actions inspired protests in other parts of South Africa culminating in the case of 5 poor residents of Phiri township against the city of Johannesburg, which attracted international attention and went all the way up to constitutional court.
Source: Patrick Bond, South Africa: Two warriors die, alongside the right to water, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, 03 Jul 2011