The sheared-passive margin offshore Durban (South Africa) is characterized by a narrow continental shelf and steep slope hosting numerous submarine canyons. Supply of sediment to the margin is predominantly terrigenous, dominated by discharge from several short but fast-flowing rivers. International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 361 provides a unique opportunity to investigate the role of sea-level fluctuations on the sedimentation patterns and slope instability along the South African margin. We analysed >300 sediment samples and downcore variations in P-wave, magnetic susceptibility, bioturbation intensity and bulk density from site U1474, as well as regional seismic reflection profiles to: (1) document an increase in sand input since the Mid-Pliocene; (2) associate this change to a drop in sea-level and extension of subaerial drainage systems towards the shelf-edge; (3) demonstrate that slope instability has played a key role in the evolution of the South Africa margin facing the Natal Valley. Furthermore, we highlight how the widespread occurrence of failure events reflects the tectonic control on the morphology of the shelf and slope, as well as bottom-current scour and instability of fan complexes. This information is important to improve hazard assessment in a populated coastal region with growing offshore hydrocarbon activities.