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Water Privatization Is Re Endorsing The Apartheid State

3055 words - 12 pages

In 1994, the South African government abandoned its Reconstruction and Development Program that ensured that natural resources, such as water, would be accessible to all citizens irrespective of race or class (Mackinnon, 2005). Forsaking this original mandate, the national government now allowed water bureaucrats the authority to provide water only if there was a full cost recovery of operating and maintenance costs (Mackinnon, 2005). Upon advice from international financial institutions and Western governments, the South African government decreased grants and subsidies to local municipalities forcing them to eventually turn to commercialization and privatization of basic services to make up for the lost revenue (Mackinnon, 2005). Many municipalities began signing contracts with large US and European water firms after heavy lobbying efforts from these private transnational companies (Mackinnon, 2005). In January 2001, the Johannesburg metro privatized their water services and signed a five-year contract with French water company Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux (Mackinnon, 2005). The municipality maintained that by contracting out their water services, they would see an increase in accessibility to water increased efficiency in management (Mackinnon, 2005). However, residents of Black townships in Johannesburg began to see a deterioration in their basic human rights, health and dignity that they were forced to contest (Bond, 2008). Green neoliberalism and the privatization of water hinders social reproduction and amplifies existing racial and classist inequalities globally and specifically in post-apartheid Johannesburg. These perverse hierarchies and their consequential discrimination are met with strong opposition from the poor who fight the institutions that oppress them to retrieve their basic human rights.

Neoliberalism and privatization have become the widespread accepted solutions for all problems concerning state services. This market-based ideology argues that state-run services will never be more efficient than private services (Goldman, 2007). Oddly, however, we see many of the effects and mechanisms of this ideology echoing those of colonialism and nationalism (Miraftab, 2004). Neoliberalism uses the same inefficiency of resources trope to mobilize action as colonialism did (Miraftab, 2004). Green neoliberalism, applying these market-based concepts to natural resources, has seen the commodification of the most essential resource to mankind, water (Goldman, 2007). This water as a commodity initiative has amplified global inequalities where the primarily White North can afford unlimited, clean, safe water while the coloured South cannot. This is in contrast to the seemingly “pro-poor” argument for privatization provided by the World Bank and other neoliberal-based institutions (Bakker, 2007).
We have seen the World Bank slogan “Water for all!” used as a means of convincing the global South that privatizing water services will lead to more...

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