Can water governance deepen democracy in South Africa? Towards a new social charter for mining
The transition to democracy in South Africa 18 years ago has changed the governance landscape of the country in a fundamental way. Mining, traditionally the mainstay of the national economy, is clearly in a state of decline, just as water constraints are rising and the pollution of water through acid mine drainage (AMD) is becoming front page news. The recent massacre of protesting miners at Marikana, currently the subject of a judicial board of enquiry, has highlighted the existence of major tensions left unresolved from the democratic transition. The recent downgrade of the South African sovereign risk profile by various international ratings agencies has shown how vulnerable the country is with respect to the raising of capital to fund future job creation initiatives. Actions by aggressive but well-meaning NGO’s have further undermined confidence, resulting in the unintended consequence of the potential hostile takeover by foreign interests of mining companies that retain major undeveloped resources on their books, not reflected in the plummeting share prices driven down by persistent contestation. This paper explores these issues by suggesting a framework for empirical investigation, using a recent event as a case study. This suggests that while the mining sector is in deep turmoil, water resource governance has the potential to deepen democracy in South Africa. The emergence of what is being dubbed a New Social Charter for Mining is documented, in which the management of water resources is emerging as a central driver. In conclusion, the framework originally offered as a method of testing the governance processes, is further developed by populating it with empirical evidence gleaned from the case study. Keywords: governance, offset benefits, mine closure.