The first round of division occurred in the early 2000s, over SANCO's stance on the SAMWU
and then COSATU-led protests against privatisation and other 'neoliberal' reforms, especially in the local state.
SAMWU and other critics of water privatization further question whether privatized water managers will seriously endeavor to provide water services to poor South Africans - which requires investments in new piping to reach communities not now served by the water system - or whether they will concentrate on serving the wealthier white South Africans who offer much higher marginal returns.
SAMWU launched a nationwide anti-privatization campaign, supported strongly by the international federation Public Services International, in 1996.
SAMWU had proposed that the town government simply borrow and invest the money itself, without any privatization component.
In April 1998, Biwater tried to sue internet service providers in England and South Africa for not blocking an allegedly libelous press statement by SAMWU alleging the company was linked to shady arms deals by the Thatcher government in the late eighties.
When the South African press reported on this allegation and SAMWU publicized the charge, the deputy, director-general of the Department of Constitutional Development (DCD), which is responsible for local government and service delivery, commented that "SAMWU uses corruption as a stock allegation" against multinationals.
As Laine Greeff (Interview July 16) of the EMG and Patrick Dowling (Interview June 8, 2004) of WESSA have pointed out, the motivation of groups like SAMWU to mobilise has usually been linked to the effect which water resource management has on poorer communities.
i]t is SAMWUs position that there will be a drastic increase in water tariffs as a direct result of this project that will hit the poor of Cape Town, who are battling to pay for water.