Transforming River Basin Management In South Africa: Lessons from the Lower Komati River

P. Waalewijn, P. Wester, K. van Straaten

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    33 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper analyzes the transformation of river basin management in South Africa by focusing on the political processes involved in the creation of new water management bodies and irrigation infrastructure in the Lower Komati sub-basin. Institutional reform is described and analyzed in terms of the collaboration theory of Gray (1985). Attention is paid to the absence of mutual collaboration in the water domain through the analysis of three phases that are characteristic of collaborative management: problem setting, direction setting, and structuring. The perceptions and strategies of stakeholders in the change process are informed by the skewed access to land and water, the protracted struggle for redress of historical inequities, the quest for autonomy in water management by commercial farmers, and large political power differentials. This has resulted in differential access to decision making and political influence and in the materialization of these skewed relations in water control technology. The reluctance of stakeholders to explicitly recognize their interdependence and the role of the state as the convener of the change process has hampered the emergence of a shared appreciation of the problems in the water domain. Despite efforts by government to move towards equitable and inclusive water management, little redress of past inequities has taken place, and the majority of small farmers are uninformed and excluded from the change process. This suggests that the proposed Catchment Management Agency will not be representative nor attain equitable water management unless a wellconceived redistribution of water entitlements and land rights is carried out as part of an encompassing program to strengthen political democracy
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)184-196
    JournalWater International
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


    • water
    • boundaries
    • politics


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