Terrains of Civil and Uncivil Society in Post-Apartheid Durban

Patrick Bond, Shauna Mottiar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Post-apartheid Durban civil society politics reflects not only durable anti-racist activism, but primarily, Karl Polanyi’s pendulum of a ‘double movement’ of the market against people and environment on the one hand, and social backlashes against neoliberalism on the other. The most important movements and campaigns of a socioeconomic nature can be summarised as follows: local resistance to economic disempowerment and lack of service delivery in various trade union strikes (1994–present), South Durban’s fight against polluters and the port’s expansion (1996–present), Chatsworth’s water and electricity battles (1999–2012), the Treatment Action Campaign’s access to AIDS medicines (early 2000s), Abahlali baseMjondolo’s anti-eviction campaigns (2005–present), the defence of the Early Morning Market (2009–10), the Umlazi Occupy (2012), and sporadic community protests throughout. Resistance has occurred in urban poor neighbourhoods and townships and also penetrated the Durban inner city and university campuses. Durban activists’ tactics range from militant protests to ‘occupation’ of space ranging from townships to the Speaker’s Corner next to the Convention Centre, innovative door-to-door campaigning and court action. While the limits of single-issue and often assimilationist civil society politics are becoming obvious in one of the world’s most unequal cities, there still has not yet been a successful ‘united front’ project to fuse interests, in part due to ideological division and the geographical diffusion of dissent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-395
Number of pages13
JournalUrban Forum
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Civil society
  • Durban
  • Environmental justice
  • Protest
  • Social movements
  • Trade unions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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