Vigilantes unmasked: an exploration of informal criminal justice in contemporary South Africa

James Martin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review

Abstract

Vigilantism has a long and troubling history in the Republic of South Africa. Particularly since the latter days of apartheid, vigilante violence has become a regular feature of life in many poverty-affected and marginalised communities. This disturbing tendency indicates a ready inclination on the part of some ordinary citizens to embrace excessive violence in the name of informal justice. This paper will explore how vigilantism represents a systemic, conditioned response to crime, fear, poverty and other socio-cultural and historical factors. While in the past, scholars investigating South African vigilantism have tended to focus on the practice in terms of its criminality and threat to state legitimacy, recent studies suggest that the reality of contemporary vigilantism may be more complex and ambiguous. In the context of state failure to provide security and reliable criminal justice mechanisms vigilantism has, in some communities, come to be a respected homegrown response to criminality and deviance. This paper will examine the emergence and evolution of vigilantism in South Africa and seek to address crucial questions regarding its legitimacy and role in South African life.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAustralia and New Zealand Critical Criminology Conference 2009
Subtitle of host publicationconference proceedings
EditorsMarie Segrave
Place of PublicationMelbourne
PublisherMonash University Publishing
Pages142-150
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)9780980753004
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes
EventAustralian and New Zealand Critical Criminology Conference (3rd : 2009) - Melbourne
Duration: 8 Jul 20099 Jul 2009

Conference

ConferenceAustralian and New Zealand Critical Criminology Conference (3rd : 2009)
CityMelbourne
Period8/07/099/07/09

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