The use and disposal of water in South Africa is a subject fraught with controversy. On the one hand, there is the pessimistic view that South Africa is an arid country and that the only equitable way to deal with the perceived scarcity of water is through the rigid control of its use and disposal. This leads to the conclusion that government should engage itself in the process of water allocation.
On the other hand, there is the view that South Africa, though arid in many regions, is an adequately watered country with a rainfall which, though subject to annual fluctuations, is more than sufficient to sustain development and to serve the needs of the population. The IFP position is sympathetic to this latter view.
The IFP does not accept that water should be ‘owned’ and controlled, down to the last drop, by the Minister of Water Affairs, but rather that its management should be devolved to the lowest practicable level. The IFP believes that the enlightened way of dealing with the problem of water shortages is for national government to limit its role to co-ordinating planning for the collection of water through the building of dams, canals and the tapping of river systems in neighbouring countries which have spare capacity. Bureaucratic controls over water should be reduced in order to save money.
The management of water resources and the allocation of water – including the sale of water – should be entrusted to the provinces. Provincial administrations should manage all aspects of water provision except those involving major capital projects, the integration of water systems and international negotiations over the supply of water from foreign countries.
The value of water should be recognised between provinces through the payment of royalties.
Local government competence
The day-to-day control of water resources, in their areas of jurisdiction, should be entrusted to traditional agencies i.e. municipalities, irrigation committees and, in tribal areas, the Amakosi.
Review of water related legislation
The IFP believes that the water law ought to be revised after thorough study of water laws in country’s comparable to South Africa.
Privatisation of water
The IFP advocates the privatisation of water, and urges that the control of water be effected through the price mechanism. Private companies which enter the field of water supply should then be contractually bound to provide water to needy communities. Moreover, the poor and needy should be assisted with payment for water, where necessary, through government subsidy.
Proceeds from the sale of water rights should be used for the construction of dams and canals.