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Bryant, Jacob (2006) Towards delivery and dignity: community struggle from Kennedy Road. Centre for Civil Society Research report 41: 1-32.

When it assumed leadership in 1994, the African National Congress and its ruling alliance partners encouraged a policy of demobilisation for the very organisations that, via mass-mobilisation, had helped bring them into power.

After a period of relative quiet, many of the same people who had fought against apartheid took to the streets again in the mass-movements that have emerged post-apartheid, protesting the policies of the new, African-led government. The grievances of these movements range from frustration with government inaction on HIV/AIDS to the evictions of the poor who cannot pay rent, but all express frustration with how little the circumstances of the poor have changed with the ‘new dispensation’,3 and bring their frustrations to the state.4 One of the more recent ‘movements’ began with large protests from Durban’s Kennedy Road settlement against their local councilor, which then inspired and grew into Abahlali baseMjondolo5 (AbM), an organisation of shack-dwellers.

Through AbM, the scope and participation of the movement have increased dramatically over the past year, garnering significant media attention and winning small concessions from the Durban municipal government. The topic of Kennedy Road is important beyond the demands this movement makes or the tactics it employs, however, for what it represents: a thrust for ‘bottom-up democracy’6 in a country whose leaders are being criticised increasingly for highly centralised control7 and a directed, public articulation of the grievances of the poor.

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