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Press Release 
Jay Bhagwan 

Social protests and water service delivery in South Africa

On 13 September, 2013 the WRC is hosting a seminar to discuss findings of a study that was done with the focus on “Social protests and water service delivery in South Africa: Characterisation of selected local contexts “.

The study was done to determine a way to move the sector forward in responding to challenges underlying social protests.  The WRC study explores the characteristics of selected case studies of urban, peri-urban and rural localities in which violent protests have emerged.  The main focus of the WRC project on social protests was to characterise the salient features of local contexts whereby post-apartheid South African engagements between water users and water service authorities, among others, have become marked by violent protest action.

A survey of catalogued protest events shows that the reasons put forward by protesters and captured by media reports can be classified into several broad categories that include social services, municipal boundary disputes, labour and unemployment, landlessness and informal settlement issues, informal sector trading, governance, and xenophobia, among others. Within the category of social services, cited grievances included service delivery, housing, electricity, water, refuse, health, education, roads and transport.  Water service delivery issues included inadequate or lack of access to water, poor quality of water from existing supply infrastructure, poor operation and maintenance of infrastructure, infrequency of water supply, high tariffs, privatisation, inaccurate water bills, disconnection (due to water demand devices and/or non-payment), and apparent inaction/apathy by local municipalities to address the problem.

On the other hand, practitioners and local municipalities voiced frustrations over wasteful water use, unaccounted-for water, infrastructure theft, breakdown and lack of financial budgets for repairs of existing and building of new infrastructure. Both sets of viewpoints tended to be simultaneously complementary and contradictory, thus pointing to a need to develop shared understandings of water service delivery issues in case-specific localities

To respond and debate a way forward on these challenges the WRC organised a seminar that will address:

  • Understanding of social scarcity of water services;
  • Understanding of social vulnerability of water services;
  • Emerging frameworks to assess water services vulnerability and scarcity;
  • Trends in water services protests; and
  • Causes of water services protests.

Media enquiries relating to the Seminar can be directed to:

Jay Bhagwan (WRC Executive Manager: Water Use & Waste Management) jayb@wrc.org.za

WRC Marketing & Communications Manager, Mr Adriaan Taljaard adriaant@wrc.org.za 

WRC Stakeholder Liaison, Mrs Hlengiwe Cele: Cell: 083 266 9781or email: hlengiwec@wrc.org.za



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