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Lumsden, Fiona and Loftus, Alex  (2003)  Inanda’s struggle for water through pipes and tunnels:Exploring state-civil society relations in a post apartheid informal settlement. Centre for Civil Society  Research Report 6 : 1-35.

Inanda's struggle for water through pipes and tunnels:Exploring state-civil society relations in a post apartheid informal settlement

…when the state trembled a sturdy structure of civil society was at once revealed. The state was only an outer ditch, behind which there stood a powerful system of fortresses and earthworks.

(Gramsci 1971: 238)

A view of Inanda


This paper explores the ever-changing dynamics of social relations within civil society and the state through the recent history of a place and its people. This is told through the story of water provision in Inanda (30km outside of Durban, South Africa) and the community’s struggles for water. My approach is informed by a Gramscian understanding of civil society, which, for the most part, is regarded as an arena that consolidates, through its dominant institutions, the existing hegemonic arrangements. This is shown to be the case with the usage of civil society in tri-sector partnerships for the delivery of water to Inanda. However, a Gramscian understanding of civil society also contains sites or pockets, often within the dominant institutions themselves, wherein these arrangements are constantly renegotiated and contested2. It is this dialectical relationship between the state and society - and the radical potential this releases - that is the focus of this paper. Such spaces of hope can be seen rising up within community-based organisations. As a collective, these have been referred to as New Social Movements, the global citizens of the world or more scathingly dubbed by the ANC government as the ‘ultra left’. Although such groups, and the analyses they have spawned, remain inspiring, they cannot be considered a “blueprint” and, in the course of this analysis, need to be fused with other understandings, in order to grapple with what is currently taking place in Inanda. Here, there appears to be a much stronger recourse to existing political and organisational structures. The question then posed is: Where is thei mmanent potential within such places as Inanda and can this help to catalyse other struggles, and, if not, why not?

Women carrying water back to their RDP houses in Bhambayi. They are still waiting for their water connection one year later.

In order to analyse such relations, I use the lens of water, looking closely at how water is being delivered in the current economic and political conjuncture, and focusing on tri-sector partnerships (TSPs) between the state, the private sector and ‘civil society’. These are currently being marketed internationally as the most innovative approach to providing water in poor communities. This paper will begin by detailing Inanda’s experience, specifically in the communities of Bhambayi and Amatikwe, of being involved in a tri-sector partnership for the delivery of water3. Although my focus is specifically upon the ‘civil society component’ within this ‘partnership’, one of the most striking issues to emerge from this research is the appalling state of service delivery in Durban’s informal settlements. This both informs the final analysis and heightens many of the contradictions around which people may or may not mobilise in future. The role of civil society, as defined in tri-sector partnerships, is, however, only one form of civil society emerging around the provision of basic services. In looking at the provision of water in Inanda, a complex web of state and society relations emerges. This forms the second part of the paper. The concluding section draws upon these insights, in order to shed some light on the immanent potentials for social change and organising at this particular (dis) juncture in Inanda.

Decaying pit latrines in Bhambayi, next to RDP houses. These have been awaiting water and sewerage connections for one year.

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