Durban has a thriving grassroots civil society made up of organisations of shack dwellers, inner-city flat dwellers, migrant groups, street traders, residents of south Durban and subsistence fisherfolk who live with terrible pollution. No other city in South Africa can match it.
Grassroots organisations in Durban vary tremendously in terms of their scale, and the depth and sophistication of their internal organisation. Some only seem to spring into action in times of crises, while others involve thousands of people in a dense web of day-to-day organisation.
But, because they all work together, they are able to support one another's demands. No other city in South Africa has this level of grassroots organisation. A few personalities have come to the fore of public life in the city as a result of years of grassroots work. They include S'bu Zikode, one of the founders of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the huge shack dwellers' movement; Verushka Memdutt of the tenacious street trader organisation the Market Users Committee; and the inimitable Desmond D'Sa.
D'Sa, known to all as Des, first came to prominence in south Durban, where residents of Wentworth, Merebank and the Bluff live with the terrible...