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Water security and the right to water in Southern Africa: An overview

Caiphas Brewsters Soyapi


The Southern African region's water-related problems are quite diverse. From the struggles of indigenous communities in Botswana to the cholera outbreaks in Zimbabwe; from the difficulties of poor communities in accessing basic water services to the disputes between municipal councils and individual well-to-do water users, it is abundantly evident that water security is a goal/vision that needs to be pursued by governments. Yet, much of the holistic scholarly focus on water security within the region has been on transboundary water management, to the exclusion of local/national water constitutional frameworks. Through four cases from Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe the paper addresses selected aspects of the varied water issues, in particular the constitutional right to water and how that impacts on water security within the region. The literature and case law reviewed in the paper indicate that while there are benefits to constitutionalising the right to water as a fundamental right, courts are still able to read the right to water into existing rights, especially the right to life. However, reading in has its own limitations, including that courts sometimes leave hanging/unpronounced government duties/responsibilities where the right to water is not provided for. Accordingly, the paper attempts to show that while the right to water could be read into other existing rights like the right to life, water security could be better achieved through an independent constitutional human right to water, which creates constitutional duties on the state.

Keywords: Water security; human right to water; Mazibuko case; Mosetlhanyane case; Nyasulu case; Strümpher case; Mushoriwa case

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eISSN: 1727-3781