Implications of human rights and democratic norms for the privatisation of essential services
It is common knowledge that massive restructuring and amalgamations have paralysed municipalities. This coupled with severe capacity problems renders them vulnerable to bad deals. Already, many examples abound of privatisation initiatives that went sour because of bad management and the flouting of procedures.
The water privatisation in Nkonkobe municipality is a case in point. The municipality won a court battle to nullify a six year-old water privatisation contract. They brought the application after high management fees of R400 000 per month placed an intolerably high burden on their budget. The massive fees charged by the private contractor left the municipality with no money to provide other services. The municipality told the court it would save R19 million if the contract could be nullified. The Court eventually nullified the contract on the ground that the municipality did not comply with the necessary consultation and public participation requirements.
The South African Constitution gives express recognition to a wide range of human rights including socio-economic rights. Privatisation of the delivery of essential services has implications for the enjoyment of these rights. The involvement of non-state actors in the provision of essential services merits a re-examination of the socio-economic rights obligations of both the State and non-state actors. It is also important that the process of privatisation is pursued in compliance with democratic norms.
- The overall aim of the Project is to assess and evaluate the impact of privatisation on access to essential services and evaluate whether the delivery of privatised services accords with human rights, particularly socio-economic rights, and democratic principles of access to information and public participation.
- To explore the question of the applicability of socio-economic rights in the private sphere. It will investigate the role of and the nature of duties of state and private actors in the realisation of these rights in the context of privatisation.
- To monitor the implementation of key legislation with regard to privatisation and the advancement of democratic norms and socio-economic rights.