SERI Water pressOn Tuesday 20 October 2020, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) will launch its first case study, Farm dwellers fight for access to water in Umgungundlovu District Municipality, which is one of four case studies in SERI’s “Claiming Water Rights in South Africa” research project. The research examines how water rights are being claimed in South Africa and draws lessons from the work of communities and civil society organisations in a diverse range of circumstances. The research series consists of four case study reports and a synthesis report.  

SERI is partnering with the Mail & Guardian to launch these publications through the Water Rights Webinar Series. The first webinar, “Expropriation as a tool: the Marikana experience”, took place on 6 October 2020.

This webinar, “Water services on farms: the role of the municipality”, is the second in the webinar series. The case study explores the question of who is legally obliged to provide water services to farm dwellers by looking at the Mshengu case. 

For years, farm owners have claimed that the provision of water is a municipal responsibility. Municipalities in turn argued that, even if they wanted to, they have no jurisdiction to provide services on privately-owned land. Farm dwellers have thus been stuck between a rock and a hard place. After a lengthy process engaging with farm owners and several municipalities, Association For Rural Advancement (AFRA) and farm dwellers in the area, assisted by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), approached the Pietermaritzburg High Court to claim their rights to water, sanitation and other essential services in the ground-breaking Mshengu case.

The webinar will: 

  • Articulate the challenges faced by farm dwellers and labour tenants in tenure security and access to water and other basic services.
  • Discuss the value of public interest litigation in advancing rights-based struggles.
  • Showcase the ongoing efforts of farm dwellers to claim their rights and to shape the policies and processes that affect them through the Siyanqoba Rural Transformation Forum.
  • Unpack the value and lessons of the Mshengu judgment.

Date: Tuesday, 20 October 2020; 14h00-15h30 via Zoom. 

Register for the Zoom webinar here by 19 October 2020.

 This webinar will be followed by:

  • Makana Local Municipality – provincial intervention in a municipal crisis(3 November 2020). 

This case explores provincial intervention, which is framed as a key remedy to address municipal failure, from a legal and practical perspective and draws lessons from the Makana experience.

  • Maluti-a-Phofung – a community doing it for themselves(17 November 2020).

This case explores an example of residents providing water (and electricity) services themselves after municipal systems fail. The webinar aims to interrogate the practice of self-supply within the international and local human rights framework, and in the experiences of providers and consumers. It will explore the risks and implications of self-supply. 

Contact details:

  • Kelebogile Khunou, SERI researcher: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Alana Potter, SERI director of research: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Download the full press statement here