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Water and Sanitation

“Life and Dignity in Poor Communities: Holding Government Accountable for Realising Rights”

The South African Human Rights Commission launched the Water and Sanitation report on Tuesday 11 March 2014.

The report launch followed Provincial and National hearings that were held to assess Government's progress towards the realisation of the right to water and Sanitation.

For findings and recommendations on water and sanitation click below

Click here to access the report

Background to hearings

In the run up to the 2010 local government elections, the SAHRC received two complaints on municipalities that built toilets without enclosures in their local communities in the Western Cape and Free State. In line with this mandate, the SAHRC investigated the complaints and ruled that both municipalities had violated the right to dignity, privacy and a clean and healthy environment. Click here to read the findings from the Rammolotsi and Makhaza matters

In both findings, the SAHRC addressed the responsibility of the local municipalities to immediately enclose these toilets. The SAHRC findings also recognised the fact that this was part of a bigger problem facing millions of people who are poor – a lack of access to sanitation and a lack of a right-based approach to service delivery. The SAHRC thus made a strategic decision to link these two local-level complaints to the generic right to sanitation across South Africa by calling for national responsibility and accountability.

In its first ruling on sanitation, the SAHRC asked the Department of Human Settlements to report on progress on eradicating the bucket system across the country. In the second ruling, the SAHRC asked the Department of Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) in the Presidency to provide a comprehensive report on the right to sanitation in every municipality across the country and Government’s plans to address backlogs.

On 14 March 2012, the DPME submitted its report to the SAHRC National Hearing on Water, Sanitation and the Progressive Realisation of Rights. The DPME reported that 16 million people do not enjoy the right to sanitation and R45 billion is needed to address the backlog and upgrade infrastructure. Read the DPME Executive Summary here

Provincial Hearings

A series of provincial hearings were held from August to November 2012, through which the SAHRC gave effect to the Constitutional commitment to public participation on the right to access to water and sanitation. Communities facing water and sanitation problems were identified by provincial SAHRC offices and provincial hearings were hosted in these communities. Stakeholders from civil society, government, research institutions and the private sector attended and provided submissions on the right to water and sanitation.

The hearings enabled local communities to:

  • Interrogate the DPME report relating to their province and municipalities from their own lived experience
  • Share their analysis of delivery of these rights, the initiatives they have taken to access their rights and the solutions they have proposed.
  • Reflect on the differentiated impact of the lack of rights, for example, on gender-based violence and gender equality.
  • Engage with and hold accountable local provincial and national government to ensure the right to water and sanitation is realised.
  • Enforce government accountability to regulate and monitor private entities contracted to deliver the services in a way that upholds human rights.
  • identify what businesses pay, in comparison to households, for their use as well as pollution of water

For more information on your right to sanitation click below for the pamphlets

Relevant downloads

1. Briefing note for hearings

2. SAHRC findings from Makhaza
3. SAHRC findings from Free state
4. High Court case on Makhaza
5. Black sash report
6. SAHRC report on Human Rights Day activities
7. DPME report
8. 7th ESR Report


For more information:


Twitter @SAHRCommission or Facebook SAhumanrightscommission

Water is Life; Sanitation is Dignity: Launch of the Water and Sanitation Provincial Hearings

Statement by Pregs Govender, Deputy Chair of the South African Human Rights Commission

28 August 2012

The tragic killing of over 30 Lonmin workers at Marikana has re-focused the spotlight on the living and working conditions of those who died and bring an added urgency to the South African Human Rights Commission’s provincial hearings on ‘Water is life; Sanitation is dignity’. These hearings also honour the memory of Commissioner Sandi Baai, who passed away on the 15 August, who strongly believed that those in positions of power must listen closely to people who are poor, especially when they make and implement policy.

Read more

- See more at: http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/constitution/index.html#sthash.vQme5ODl.dpuf

The South African Constitution

The Commission is available on social media

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To lodge a human rights violation complaint, click here.

or Call 011 877 3600
e-mail: complaints@sahrc.org.za

Provincial contact details are available here


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