Water is an essential necessity for human beings; however, South Africa has a long history of inequalities dating back to apartheid politics and legislation which denied access to water to disadvantaged black populations mostly residing in rural areas. Although apartheid has officially ended, whether the lack of access to water by such populations who still cannot afford it exists and aligns with international human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination merits an examination. To redress the injustices of the apartheid regime, the right to have access to sufficient water is entrenched in section 27(1)(b) of the 1996 South African Constitution. In addition to embracing equality and non-discrimination, the Constitution informs other instruments and measures such as free basic water policy and pre-paid meters meant to ensure access to water. However, the plight of these populations persists in post-apartheid South Africa, but it is rarely a subject of academic scrutiny how the notion of affirmative action as grounded in the principles of equality and non-discrimination under human rights law can be deployed as a response. Using a doctrinal research approach, this article argues that the continuing struggle of disadvantaged communities with access to water does not only constitute water apartheid, it negates the human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination. The principle of affirmative action is useful in responding to inadequate access to sufficient water by disadvantaged populations in post-apartheid South Africa.
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