Unpacking South Africa’s changing water law for transformative justice

Unpacking South Africa’s changing water law for transformative justice


August 26, 2020    
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm


World Water Week
World Water Week - Webinar, World Water Week - Webinar
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Wednesday 26 August | 14:00-15:30 CEST

Conveners: Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), South Africa; Water Research Commission (WRC); International Water Management Institute (IWMI); Inkomati-Usuthu Catchment Management Agency (IUCMA)


Join us at this year’s virtual World Water Week (#WWWeek #AtHome) organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) as we showcase South Africa’s evolving regulatory system for water use – one that reflects the need to accelerate action for transformative justice to address current and future water challenges of equitable access to water. Hosted by some of the key players central to these evolving developments in South Africa, it will unpack the key elements to achieving a truly hybrid system that integrates statutory and customary water law.

Twenty years after the promulgation of South Africa’s highly acclaimed National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998), evidence is emerging that its vision of redressing inequities from the past is not being achieved. Instead, alongside some progress in access to water for domestic uses, past power relations in water rights for productive purposes may have been further consolidated. Enforcement of Existing Lawful Use, the inability of licensing systems to reach many South Africans, and over-riding of customary water tenure, contributed to previously disadvantaged individuals still finding themselves without access to water and if they do, without the proper legal entitlement to the resource. Possible differentiated approaches to regulation, such as opportunities in the implementation of General Authorizations (GA) and aligning the water and land reform processes remain unexplored.

This session will provide stakeholders with an opportunity to interact with this very dynamic debate and developments currently underway, to explore the potential of a truly hybrid approach to water law.

In collaboration with the Inkomati-Usuthu Catchment Management Agency (CMA), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI, and the Water Research Commission (WRC), the Department of Water and Sanitation of South Africa (DWS) is spear-heading an innovative approach to review and strengthen its water law – one that acknowledges the need to accelerate action to achieve transformative justice.


Objectives and outcomes:

  • To showcase the changing nature of South Africa’s water law and seek inputs from global stakeholders on ways to optimize this;
  • To grow the community of practice in hybrid water law;
  • To explore how regulatory systems need to change to achieve transformative justice.



Moderator: Inga Jacobs-Mata (IWMI, Southern Africa)

Introduction and global perspective on the emergence of hybrid water law Dr. Mark Smith, DG of International Water Management Institute (IWMI)

National R&D perspective Mr. Dhesigen Naidoo, CEO of Water Research Commission (WRC)

Exploring approaches to hybrid water law in the Inkomati-Usuthu Water Management Area Dr. Jennifer Molwantwa, Executive, Water Resource Management, Inkomati-Usuthu Catchment Management Agency (IUCMA)

Overview of South Africa’s evolving water policy landscape and the importance of hybrid water law in achieving transformative justice Mr. David Mahlobo, Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation (DWS), Government of South Africa

Discussion Moderated by Dr. Inga Jacobs-Mata and Ms. Patience Mukuyu (IWMI)

Discussants: Ms. Barbara Schreiner (WIN); Prof. Tumai Murombo (Wits University); Dr. Barbara van Koppen (IWMI); Ms. Mary Jean Gabriel (Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, South Africa)

Conclusion and Way Forward Mr. John Dini (WRC)