Past Event

Food Equity

Municipalities and food security: a constitutional analysis

20 July 2021 13:00–14:30

In this seminar, Professor Jaap de Visser will present his latest work on the role of local government in securing the right to food. This work is published in the book Land Issues for Urban Governance in Sub-Saharan Africa. Increasing access to food is equally important, so this contribution adopts a “food systems approach”.

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This seminar is part of the Food Equity Seminar series and is co-organised with Centre of Excellence in Food Security in South Africa.

Against the backdrop of a growing number of countries on the continent that are decentralising powers to cities and regions, this chapter assesses the role of local governments in South Africa with respect to food security. It argues that food security is not just a national and/or provincial government concern, but that the Constitution demands of municipalities to contribute to realising the right to food. Against the backdrop of a general introduction into the division of responsibilities between national, provincial and local government, it deploys two arguments to make this assertion.

The first is located in the jurisprudence of the South African Constitutional Court on socio-economic rights. The second is located in the division of powers between national, provincial and local government. This contribution explores various linkages between a municipality’s constitutional powers and food security. Specific emphasis is placed on the municipality’s responsibility to regulate trade and markets as well as its responsibility to conduct spatial planning and land-use management. The argument made in this chapter is also relevant in other countries on the continent that combine socio-economic rights with multilevel government arrangements.’


Jaap de Visser assumed office as Director of the Dullah Omar Institute in 2013 and has been associated with the Institute since 1998. In 2015, he spearheaded the conversion and renaming of the Community Law Centre into the Dullah Omar Institute for Constitutional Law, Governance and Human Rights. He is a Professor of Law at the University of the Western Cape’s Faculty of Law. He is the co-author of Local Government Law of South Africa. His research, teaching and consulting focuses on multilevel government, local government, good governance and federalism in Africa and he has published widely on these topics. He has overseen and conducted postgraduate and contract research on multilevel government in South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Lesotho and Kenya.


Julian May is Director of the Centre of Excellence in Food Security at the University of the Western Cape and holds the UNESCO Chair in African Food Systems. He is an economist with a PhD in Development Studies.  He has worked on options for poverty reduction including land reform, social grants, information technology and agriculture throughout Africa.  His current research focuses on food security, childhood deprivation and malnutrition. He has edited 7 books and published over 90 papers in books and academic journals. He serves on Academy of Science in South Africa (ASSAf) Council.

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