Two hundred and seventy-eight municipalities in the country are responsible for the delivery of basic services – including water, electricity, sanitation and refuse removal – and are increasingly taking the lead role in providing housing. Lack of water, electricity, sanitation and housing, are the most common issues driving mobilised dissent in townships and informal settlements.
The right to water is enshrined in section 27 of the Constitution which obligates the state to take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of the right to water. The right to sanitation is enshrined in section 24 of the Constitution as a right to an environment that is not harmful to health and well-being; municipalities must ensure the realisation of this right.
Section 26 of the Constitution specifically grants everyone “the right to have access to adequate housing” which has been interpreted to include sanitation. Access to sanitation is also implied as a part of a healthy environment not harmful to a person’s health or well-being.
The work done by public interest legal services organisations helps to ensure access to basic services, including water and sanitation, by directly addressing local governments and litigating and advocating for these rights.