1 The Fourth Draft of the National Water Bill was prepared by a Drafting Team which was appointed by the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, and which worked under the guidance of the South African Water Law Review Policy and Strategy Team of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry.
2 Whilst every possible care has been taken to ensure that the contents of the Draft Bill reflect the intentions of the National Water Policy for South Africa, as described in the White Paper published in April 1997, it has not been scrutinised or evaluated in detail by either the Minister, or by the Policy and Strategy Team.
3 The Draft Bill is therefore circulated for comment and discussion on the clear understanding that neither the Minister nor the Department regards any part of it as being final, and that every part of it is open for comment and discussion. In particular, readers are invited to comment on parts of the Draft which they believe reflect the requirements of the National Water Policy either incompletely or imperfectly. Notes included in the text of the Draft draw attention to some matters which require further consideration.
4 In making law in an area of natural resource management as complex as water, there are inevitably a range of possible approaches to drafting. In some instances, different alternatives have been drafted, and these are clearly indicated in the Draft.
5 The structure of the Draft Bill - the way in which the wide variety of subjects are ordered in the text - was adopted after intensive discussion, and with the benefit of international experience and expertise. It is acknowledged that the structure presented in the draft is not the only possible approach, and suggestions for alternative structures will be carefully considered.
6 The draft Bill has not yet been edited. Different members of the Drafting Team drafted different sections of the Draft Bill. As a consequence, the style is neither entirely consistent nor entirely uniform. In preparing the next Draft the style will receive further attention to ensure consistency and uniformity. In addition, the language of the Draft Bill will be reviewed to ensure that it is as understandable as possible to as wide a range of people as possible. In this respect, the following can be considered:
6.1 Are short paragraphs, broken up into different subparagraphs, and short sentences preferable to longer paragraphs and flowing prose?
6.2 Is it helpful to move provisions containing detail (as distinct from principles) to Schedules annexed to the Bill, rather than include them in the Bill? If this is done, the Bill will be much shorter and more accessible, but it may be more cumbersome to use in practice.
6.3 Related to the above is the question of how much detail should be included in the Bill and its schedules, and how much should be in regulations or in prescribed policy?
6.4 Explanatory sections have been included in the Bill, to explain the purpose of chapters or parts of chapters. These are included instead of sections setting out the objects of particular chapters. If these explanatory sections are helpful, and preferable to sections setting out the objects of a chapter, more of them can be included.
6.5 There is a definition section at the beginning of the Draft Bill, which contains many definitions of terms used in the Draft Bill. Should the definition of terms which are only used in a particular chapter be contained in the beginning of that chapter, rather than at the beginning of the Bill? Is the use of definitions helpful, or are there too many of them?
6.6 Contraventions of certain sections constitute offences. Is it better to set out the offences at the end of each of the sections (or group of sections) concerned, or should all offences be dealt with together in a single section at the end of the Bill?
7 During the course of preparing this Fourth Draft, the contents of previous drafts of the Bill have been the subject of detailed debate within the Department. International advice was also sought. As a result, significant changes have been made to the Draft Bill. Changes to one part of the Bill affect other parts. The desire to circulate the Draft Bill for comment as soon as possible has meant that some changes have not as yet been made. Other changes were made at a very late stage in the preparation of this Draft. As a result, it is quite possible that there still exist conflicting provisions in the Draft Bill. Assistance in identifying and rectifying these will be appreciated.