Civil rights organisation AfriForum has expressed its disquiet over the broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) requirements imposed under the Department of Water and Sanitation’s (DWS’s) water use licence applications.
The organisation alleges that this requirement poses significant challenges to the management of the country’s water resources.
AfriForum has acknowledged the value of considering the redress of past racial discrimination in accordance with Section 27 of the National Water Act.
However, it maintains that this should not be the determining factor on whether to grant water use licences. Further, the organisation has affirmed that factors such as the public interest, the efficiency of the intended water use and the effects of the intended use on water resources should also be taken into consideration.
“By making it impossible to apply for a water use licence unless the applicant meets BBBEE requirements, the racial aspect is elevated to the most important. This way, for example, a white family farmer is automatically excluded from water licence applications,” said AfriForum environmental affairs advisor Marais de Vaal.
He added that amid the efforts to impose transformation goals in the water sector, proposed amendments to water legislation must first be subjected to acceptable public participation processes whilst adhering to the rule of law.
“At a time when the management of the country’s water resources has already reached a crisis point, the DWS should rather make an effort to fulfil their most basic obligations than to enforce their failed transformation policy at all costs,” said De Vaal.
AfriForum will send an urgent request to Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu to amend the prerequisite for applications immediately. A failure to do so will result in the organisation lodging a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission.