Defining hydropolitics: the politics of water in South Africa

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Jankielsohn, Roy
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Faculty of the Humanities, University of the Free State
As the ability of governments to supply adequate amounts of safe water to communities diminishes, so does the potential for political conflict and instability increase. The political management of our planet’s scarce resources, especially water, will largely depend on the capacity and human capital available at local government level. If this is not available, then the resulting water shortages required to sustain communities will become a growing source of political unrest and conflict. It is within this context that hydropolitics needs to be redefined. In South Africa, the inability of local governments to react to the water needs of communities has already become a major cause of service delivery protests. Nowhere in South Africa were the consequences of this more prevalent than with the death of Andries Tatane during service delivery protests in the Setsoto municipality (Ficksburg) in the Free State Province. Water was at the centre of these protests. The solution to this problem requires a holistic approach to water management that takes various other aspects relating to water, or that require water, into account. The solutions require political will and a change in life styles and habits of individuals and communities. It is said that all politics is local, and one does not get more local than our daily reliance on water. Water is already a political issue and needs to be redefined as such in order to put pressure on politicians to recognize the need for political solutions and take responsibility for this.
Water, Hydropolitics, Service delivery protests, Institutional capacity, Local government, Water rights, Water pollution, Andries Tatane
Jankielsohn, R. (2012). Defining hydropolitics: the politics of water in South Africa. Journal for Contemporary History, 37(1), 123-141.