Class, race, space and the “right to sanitation”: The limits of neoliberal toilet technologies in Durban, South Africa

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Do South Africans have a genuine “right to sanitation”? Since liberation from apartheid in 1994, the third city of Durban adopted a micro-sanitation strategy, which shifted the investment burden from the municipality to more than 150,000 low-income households through dry toilets. The urgency of a new sanitation system was catalysed by a cholera outbreak and a dramatic expansion of the city boundaries in 2000–2001. But installations of both Ventilated Improved Pit-latrine and Urine Diversion on-site toilets revealed the municipality’s lack of willingness to make capital investments in waterborne sanitation, in the process confirming discrimination of a spatial, temporal, racial and class character. This geographical displacement of responsibility, due in part to the lack of political will to gather up sufficient state capital to pay for connector piping and bulk sewage treatment plants, occurred in parts of the city inhabited by people considered indigent. On a cost-recovery basis, they were simply unable to repay substantive fixed investments or even ongoing water operations and maintenance costs. Hence, the municipal policy logic generated a new geographical version of apartheid boundaries: instead of race as the dividing line between communities of different incomes, it was based on the sewage line. From this emerged a series of debates about the character of socioeconomic rights, urban neoliberalism, social dignity, protest narratives and the international best-practice innovation for which Durban continues to be celebrated.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWater Politics
Subtitle of host publicationGovernance, Justice and the Right to Water
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780429843129
ISBN (Print)9781138320024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Class, race, space and the “right to sanitation”: The limits of neoliberal toilet technologies in Durban, South Africa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this