chapter  12
16 Pages

The right to the city and the eco-social commoning of water: discursive and political lessons from South Africa

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, p447, and chapter in this book) 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 v 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 commodi¼cation within which activists campaign for water rights.