Theories of civil society and the history of the SAWC

Support material: Assessing the role of civil society in South African water policy within the context of legal requirements and democratic discourse.

The role of civil society has a history that has changed over time and is still changing and being debated. The role that people ascribe to civil society can influence the effect that it can have. It can lead to organisations being excluded or included in important discussions. During the course EMG will present to us a study they have done on the different theories of civil society and in particular the history of the SAWC. This will help us to position the practices that we are all engaged in within a wider social movement for change. We could then also consider how our different practices are ‘linked together’ in such a movement, and what we might do to strengthen our collective action across our institutions. Doing this will also allow us to discuss how we could collaboratively support the SAWC to strengthen its already established role in South Africa.

Let’s explore the history and practice of the SAWC together by doing the exercise “The practice of the SAWC”.

One of our ongoing projects for this course will be to think about, research and discuss how the SAWC, supported by our organisations’ activities, can become better skilled in practices like:

  • using the press
  • presenting information
  • being more vocal and visible for effected communities
  • becoming more literate around law and Chapter 9 institutions
  • building relationships both nationally and internationally

The history of the SAWC shows that these kinds of practices are very important for the work of a social movement, and for the social movement to continuously adapt to the changing political, social and ecological context, it must also adapt or expand its own practices. How to best do this, will be a strong topic of discussion throughout the course. Thus, working on a specific practice at a local level must also be seen as being connected to a whole range of other practices that take place at different levels and with a range of different organisations in a connected ‘movement for change’. This movement for change relies on grassroots practice-based changes, and hence in this project we focus on the concept of ‘Changing Practice’. During each course we will invite someone to share with us their expertise and skills relating to these points. We will also map out how the different practices we are all expanding and improving at our various local levels, in our spheres of influence, collectively combine to produce a social movement that can strengthen the actualisation of the NWRS2 and its social justice intentions, and the participatory implementation intentions of the South African Water Act, and the environmental and water rights that are enshrined in our Constitution.