This article describes the failure of issue management communication in resolving an enduring pollution crisis stretching over two decades in South Africa’s South Durban Industrial Basin (SDIB). A crisis of responsibility has arisen from a postmodern, neoliberal order. Concerns of residents are overridden in favour of nationally significant economic growth objectives. As a result “local” issues are communicated by global coalitions seeking environmental justice through modernist notions of “science” communicated in a postmodern, global context. The lack of public confi dence, trust and the unmet expectations of participation in the environmental decision-making of government agencies and corporations is revealed. Local mobilisations look to broader spaces of engagement, including international activist organisations and international media as the unresolved crisis is deepened by state coercion and industry intransigence.