Can Human Rights Transcend the Commercialization of Water in South Africa? Sowetoâ€™s Legal Fight for an Equitable Water Policy
The South African Constitution guarantees the right to water, which is reinforced by a national Free Basic Water policy. However, water delivery is a local government function, which, in the absence of a national regulator, is largely operated as a commercial service. Using the lens of the Mazibuko water rights caseâ€”the first South African test case on the right to waterâ€”this article examines the conflict between a progressive rights-based model, which views water as a social good, and the commercialized model, which treats water as a source of revenue instead of a public service. The article finds in the legal iterations of the Mazibuko applicants the potential for a new, more equitable approach to water services. This is despite the set-back occasioned by the ultimate legal defeat in the Constitutional Court in late-2009. JEL codes: I31, H41, K32, Q25
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