||This article reviews some of the debates regarding the right to water, applying these to the experiences of water delivery in post-apartheid South Africa. Of central importance, we find, are international trends towards cost-recovery and the commercialisation of water, whether through privatisation or corporatisation.
Against such trends, which result in water being priced beyond the reach of poor households, popular resistance to water injustice has taken forms ranging from direct protests, to autonomist-style reconnections and destruction of prepayment meters, to a constitutional challenge over water services in Soweto. Do such water wars have the potential to shift the focus from marketbased and ‘sustainable development’ conceptions to policies more conducive to ‘social justice’, even in the face of powerful commercial interests and imperatives?
And can rights mobilisation be part of this struggle for a more socially-just model of water delivery, which views water primarily as a social rather than a commercial good?