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Water governance in traditional rural communities of South Africa
Expanded Title:A key policy issue to be considered in the decentralization of South African water governance is that the broadening of stakeholder participation in the envisaged institutions should be based on clear understandings of existing institutional arrangements and practices that shape water use in traditional rural communities and households. Field evidence shows that in many rural contexts, local people often devise their own strategies for coping with water insecurity independent of traditional leadership (Tapela, 2011a, b). They use available water sources for their multiple livelihood requirements. Indeed, the very fact that water is a ubiquitously decentralized or ‘fugitive’ resource suggests that rural women and men engage with, appropriate, use, develop and safeguard water wherever they find it. They do so irrespective of presence or absence of municipalities and catchment management institutions, irrespective of political power dynamics between elected municipal councillors and traditional leadership and irrespective of restrictive rules associated with single-use water infrastructure design. By contrast, traditional leadership roles are largely related to land governance rather than water governance. The latter is often incidental rather than central to the governance of land. It is therefore not feasible that, in water governance, traditional leadership can singularly and effectively represent the diversity of primary stakeholders, who include vulnerable gender groups and water-linked ecological systems within traditional rural communities. However, the significance of the institution of traditional leadership cannot be ignored. As Houston & Somadoda (1996:1 in Maphosa, 2010) observe, South Africa has approximately 800 traditional leaders, who are assisted by 10 000 traditional councillors. Furthermore, over 18 million rural people (about 40% of the national population) live under the jurisdiction of traditional leaders (Kgosi Molotlegi, 2003:5, ibid.) and are distributed in seven of the nine provinces. Some of the traditional leadership institutions wield a lot of power within their jurisdictions. For example, Ingonyama Trust wields enormous power over large land territories and has recently stated its intention to claim land in virtually the whole of KwaZulu-Natal. In the North West, the Royal Bafokeng traditional leadership commands extra-ordinary financial power and has recently demonstrated its commitment to embracing the democratic ideal and partnering with government in the delivery of water, sanitation and other social services and infrastructure. The implications of powerful traditional leadership institutions for water governance are that their potential to either strengthen or undermine water governance should not be under-estimated. This calls for the adoption of sound mechanisms for constructively engaging with rather than marginalizing this institution, as well as frankly weighing the benefits and disbenefits of involving this institution at various levels and scales of water governance. Traditional leadership roles should primarily serve to enhance democracy and gender equity rather than carve out new power niches within governance arenas hitherto outside the customary domain of traditional leadership institutions.
Date Published:05/02/2016
Document Type:Research Report
Document Subjects:Water Resource Management/IWRM - Water Governance
Document Keywords:Policy and regulation, Water Quality
Document Format:Report
Document File Type:pdf
Research Report Type:Technical
WRC Report No:KV 343/15
ISBN No:978-1-4312-0697-1
Authors:Tapela BN
Project No:K8/1092
Document Size:834 KB
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