Can water governance deepen democracy in South Africa?

Towards a new social charter for mining


  • Anthony Turton Centre for Environmental Management | University of Free State


governance, offset benefits, mine closure


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.


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How to Cite

Turton, A. . (2013). Can water governance deepen democracy in South Africa? Towards a new social charter for mining. International Journal of Water Governance, 1(1-2), 65–87. Retrieved from



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