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Redressing Racial Inequities Through Water Law in South Africa: Interaction and Contact Among Legal Frameworks

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Van Koppen, Barbara; Jha, Nitis; Merrey, Douglas J.
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Globalisation, the Ninth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Conf. Date: June 17-21, 2002
Date: 2002
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/2317
Sector: Social Organization
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Africa
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
water resources
Abstract: "During the apartheid era in South Africa, control over water was unequally partitioned between the white Republic of South Africa and the black Homelands, which were reserves created for Africans by the white state. In the former, which controlled the bulk of water available in the country, riparian rights were granted mainly to high-volume users with the relevant state department playing an overseeing role. In the latter, the Homeland governments held some responsibilities for water management while delegating others to communal authorities like traditional chiefs. After the end of apartheid, a radical and far-sighted National Water Act was promulgated, which seeks to redress the race and gender inequities of the past in the arena of water management. This paper focuses primarily on how the Act tries to redress racial inequities. It demonstrates how the implementation of this pro-poor act has come up against barriers imposed by the de facto persistence of the legal framework that governed the white areas. At the same time, the implementation of this act in the former Homelands seeks to reconcile old and new governance forms. The paper suggests that a more integrated vision of water management is needed, with a more pro-active interpretation of the law in favour of the poor. This will enable the new law to achieve its stated ends, viz., the redress of past inequities and the alleviation of poverty through better water management in river basins."

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