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Inga Jacobs  

Round-table Discussion: Could constitutional changes improve municipal water supplies?

The Water Research Commission (WRC), in partnership with the Wits University School of Law, invite you to an open Round-table Discussion titled “Could constitutional changes improve municipal water supplies?”

There is much talk today about the various water crises facing South Africa. These crises (perceived or real) arise against a backdrop of continuing poverty in large parts of the country, service delivery challenges, and an electoral year.

Some academics and policy-makers alike have argued that these crises themselves are interlinked and there are links between them and water resources management. They further purport that unless resolved, these crises may lead to increasing political insecurity and conflict at local and national levels. Similarly, while service delivery protests are often triggered by local political conflict, failed water supplies is often the immediate focus. And national government is often blamed for responding too slowly.

In recent public commentary, a discussion has emerged as to the degree to which the South African Constitution helps or hinders this dynamic. To what degree is the service-delivery crisis aggravated, or even caused by the constitution? Specifically, are the constitutional provisions that protect local government from national or provincial interference preventing effective intervention? And does this constitutional protection create a climate of impunity in which local officials – and their opponents – can conduct political fights at the expense of their citizens? 

Some have argued that this is because the Constitution states that “the national or a provincial government may not compromise or impede a municipality’s ability to exercise its powers or perform its functions”.

Others have argued that other forms of legislation, such as the National Water Act, enable the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs to intervene where there are clear water emergencies at a local level. This view emphasises the need for proper capacity building at every level, particularly at the local level, where capacity is needed to build the necessary infrastructure, operationalise and maintain it so water flows to people’s taps.


In partnership with Wits University School of Law, the WRC will host an interactive round-table discussion on this issue by leading figures in the water law and policy communities, and who have encouraged public debate on these very issues.  This dialogue is also meant to be an informal dialogue and a safe space for debate. We encourage all participants to come prepared with one question to ask of the speakers and each other.

Who should attend?

The target audience for the workshop is everyone! Please distribute to your networks. This dialogue provides an interactive and informal space for the public and scientific community of practice to engage on what has been likened to be one of the most politicised issues in the 2014 national elections.

Date: Thursday, 17 April 2014

Time: 14:00 – 16:30

Venue: Chalsty Auditorium, Wits University Campus


No costs are involved and entrance is free for all those attending however your RSVP is essential.   


Please complete the registration form and send it to Mrs. Zagry Scholtz [zagrys@wrc.org.za] by Monday, 14 April 2014.

Click here for the Programme.  


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