Journal Article: Political ecologies of water in South Africa: A literature review, by Magalie Bourblanc

In WIREs Water, GovInn researcher Dr Magalie Bourblanc and David Blanchon have published an article titled “Political ecologies of water in South Africa: A literature review”.


Given the existence of a thriving epistemic community on water sciences, the high politicization of environmental issues in the country as well as the active mobilization of a grassroot movement inspired by environmental justice, South Africa appears to be an ideal case to study the development of a political ecology (PE) approach. Moreover, since the apartheid regime, water issues have long represented a marker of extreme inequality.This paper aims at drawing a panorama of the PE of water in South Africa, its main topics and approaches. In our definition, the PE of water is concerned with human–environment relations, with explicit considerations for power relations. In the first section, we identified texts that, according to this definition, constitute the core of the PE of water in South Africa, going beyond a mere “politics of water.” In the second section and in the discussion, we undertook an in-depth analysis of the main topics addressed by authors, such as environmental flows, “free basic water policy,” prepaid water meters. PE of water is strongly connected to international debates about the link between water and power, but also capable of addressing in a critical way the specificities of the South African waterscape. It stems from this review that critical PE in urban settings in particular dominates the discipline. We could also note that the PE of water in rural areas tends to put a bigger emphasis on the “politics of ecology” whereas urban PE tends to focus more on the “ecology in politics,” although both thrive to examine the human–environment relations in an integrated manner.


You can read the full article here, or through the DOI:

Justice on the margins

Project Summary: This comparative research project examines justice outside of the formal state systems, on the borders between countries and during transitions in Africa. In the past few decades, increasing amounts of attention and resources have been given to national reconciliation and transitional justice, as is evident in the increased inclusion of these in mediation processes and peace agreements. There are long and difficult debates between local governments and the international community concerning what mechanisms should be adopted, as was evident in, for example, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Rwanda and more recently, the Democratic Republic of Conogo, Burundi and Zimbabwe. Yet, a lot of uncertainty remains about these processes and mechanisms, how they work and their actual contribution to peacebuilding.

This project straddles the Transboundary Governance, Security Governance and Governance of the Commons axes of GovInn and addresses three major challenges to reconciliation and transitional justice:

  • The lack of empirical research related to how particular national reconciliation and transitional justice mechanisms impact peacebuilding in local communities
  • The difficulty of balancing adherence to ‘international norms’ with the needs of local governments and communities
  • The fact that many conflicts occur across borders whereas reconciliation and transitional justice is imagined only within the nation-state.
Ruth Murambadoro undertaking fieldwork in Zimbabwe

Ruth Murambadoro undertaking fieldwork in Zimbabwe

Project Team: Cori Wielenga, Chris Nshimbi, Ruth Murambadoro, Patrick Hajayandi

Junior researchers: Anthony Bizos, Chenai Matshaka, Rebeka Gluhbegovic, Zefanias Matsimbe

Funding: CODESRIA and the University of Pretoria’s Research Development Programme

Funding period: May 2015 – July 2019

Amy Giliam


Associate Fellow


Amy Giliam joined GovInn as a Junior Researcher in 2014 . She is currently completing her part-time postgraduate diploma in Sustainable Development, specialising in the food systems stream, at the Sustainability Institute, Stellenbosch University.
 Before this, Amy was both a student and a tutor in the Department of Political Science  at the University of Pretoria where she obtained her Bachelor of Political Science in International Relations in 2012 and her BA Honours in International Relations with a distinction in 2013. While busy with her degree, Amy was actively involved with development organisations on and off campus, which reinforced her passion and interest in the subject of development. Amy has a passion for people, change and empowerment and seeks to play an active role in rethinking South Africa’s development model.
Research interests
  • New Economic Governance
  • Governance of the Commons
  • Development in the 21st century
  • Alternative development models
  • Models of development for developing countries in the 21st century
  • South Africa’s development model
  • Alternative/Transformative food systems