AfriForum demands that BBBEE status as a condition for water use licence applications be scrapped immediately

The civil rights organisation AfriForum noted with shock today that an application for a water use licence on the Department of Water and Sanitation’s (DWS) online platform for licence applications can only be processed if the applicant meets the requirements of broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE). Without it, it is impossible to proceed with the application.

AfriForum will therefore send an urgent request to Senzo Mchunu, the Minister of DWS, today to correct this prerequisite for applications immediately, as this condition is illegal and is against the provisions of the National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998). Should he not immediately comply with this request, AfriForum will lodge a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (HRC).

In terms of section 27 of the National Water Act, the redress of past racial discrimination is one of several factors that must be considered by the authority in assessing a water use licence application. However, it is not a determining factor, nor is it more important than any of the other factors that must be considered as a whole. Factors such as public interest, the efficiency of the intended water use, and the effects of the intended use on water resources must also be considered.

“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 discriminated against, and this farm will be excluded from water licence applications,” says Marais de Vaal, AfriForum’s Advisor for Environmental Affairs.

Seen against the backdrop of the most recent proposed amendments to water legislation (which, among other things, attempt to impose transformation goals on the water sector but which must first be subjected to a proper public participation process), this development is a blatant attempt by the government to disregard 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,” concludes De Vaal.

The DWS’s online water licencing platform can be viewed at https://www.dws.gov.za/ewulaas/.

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