Agri SA is considering its next steps after the Pretoria High Court ruled against the sale or trading of water rights.
Following three separate matters argued in October, a full bench of the court ruled that it is no longer permissible for the holder of a water use entitlement to trade or sell water, as was previously authorised by the Department of Water and Sanitation.
The court based its ruling, which was argued on behalf of the South African Association of Water Users Associations (SAAFWUA), the Doornkraal Besigheidstrust and the De Kalk Besigheidstrust, on the stipulated aims of the National Water Act 36 of 1998.
“The judgment has far-reaching consequences for the commercial agricultural sector. We will have to study the judgment and, in consultation with the legal teams representing Doornkraal, De Kalk and SAAFWUA, consider the immediate next steps,” said Agri SA Natural Resources centre of excellence policy committee chairperson Wayman Kritzinger.
The transfer of water use entitlements has long been regarded by farmers to be lawful in terms of previous and current water laws.
He explained that the court held that continuing to allow the trade in water use entitlements meant that existing holders of such entitlements could identify and choose who the recipients of the transferred or surrendered entitlements were, that it resulted in the privatisation of water and that it discriminated against those who could not afford the prices or compensation.
“It held that the sale of water use entitlements would frustrate equal access and keep historically disadvantaged persons out of the agricultural industry,” he continued.
Agri SA provided financial assistance to Doornkraal in its matter and, together with SAAFWUA, have had a keen interest in the outcome of this matter.