Hydro Hegemony in the Context of the Orange River Basin

Publication Year:

South Africa is a regional hegemon with the capacity of projecting power way beyond its national borders (Bernstein & Strasburg, 1988). At different times in its political history, this capacity has been displayed to varying degrees, with the most aggressive phase being that period that was known within the official security force community as the Total Onslaught. Coinciding with the Cold War, the Total Onslaught paradigm saw South Africa become a surrogate for the United States of America (USA) on the strategic chessboard of global power politics. This became a factor in the various wars of liberation that were raging in the Southern African region to the extent that the Cold War became an element in the viability of the various liberation movements at the time. South Africa is also an industrialized state, accounting for a substantial portion of the industrial output of the whole African continent. But there are limitations to this economic capacity, with water resources being one of the most significant. The history of South Africa is thus a history of political power as it has been manifest in military conflict and the desire to capture water resources and control the economic future through river basin management. These two elements fuse together to brand South Africa as a hydro-hegemon.

Conference name:
Workshop on Hydro Hegemony, Hosted by Kings Collegernand School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), 20-21 May 2005
Item Type:
Conference Paper

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