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Community resistance to energy privatization in South Africa
Patrick Bond & Trevor Ngwane

In spite of South Africa’s alleged ‘economic boom’,[2] the harsh socio-economic realities of daily life actually worsened for most when racial apartheid was replaced by class apartheid in 1994. That process occurred in the context of a general shift to global neoliberal power, instead of prior Keynesian eras in which middle-income countries like South Africa were permitted to build an industrial base and balance their economies through inward oriented strategies.

The Right to the City and the Eco-Social Commoning of Water: Discursive and Political Lessons from South Africa
Patrick Bond

To genuinely contribute to a ‘right to the city,’ a crucial challenge for water rights advocacy is to transcend narrow juristic narratives that, as Karen Bakker (2007:447) argues, tend to be “individualistic, anthropocentric, state-centric, and compatible with private sector provision of water supply.” This challenge became acute in South Africa on 8 October 2009, when in Mazibuko versus Johannesburg Water, the Constitutional Court overturned two lower-court rulings that had earlier been celebrated by the urban social movements of Soweto and comparable organizations across South Africa and the world, as well as academics (Bond and Dugard 2008 and Mazibuko & Others v the City of Johannesburg & Others, 2008). That court case provides the basis for rethinking both rights and commons so that both the ecological and the community-control factors are foregrounded, alongside contestation of the deeper logic of capital accumulation that explains the drive to water commodification within which activists campaign for water rights.

Water, Health, and the Commodification Debate.
Patrick Bond

Conflicts in the water sector are now well- known, and also increasingly researched by economists, particularly in relation to major ideological differences over state-run versus privatized municipal systems. A major dividing line is over how to access and sustain the financing required to expand and maintain municipal grids. In the context especially of third world urban processes, a crucial determinant is whether market-based pricing of water can generate health benefits to justify new capital investments. Such benefits have typically required strong public systems that offer adequate water supply (with sufficient proximity to source) at an affordable price. A variety of financial and fiscal pressures emerged since the 1980s, leaving full cost recovery as the core practice required by international aid agencies, multilateral financiers, and multinational corporations. Those firms were attracted by high potential profits which, ultimately, could not be realized (in part because of currency deterioration and profit repatriation problems), and hence systems were not maintained or expanded, and health benefits not realized. As commodification of water spread during the era of globalization, so too did an international civil society network demanding—and often winning— decommodification of water and deglobalization of water-capital, returning service delivery to local public institutions, often on grounds of improved public health.


South Africa’s ‘rights culture’ of water consumption.



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