Article from ROAPE Volume 35 Number 118
Vigilantism, Sovereignty & Human Rights in South Africa

Democracy & its Discontents: Vigilantism, Sovereignty & Human Rights in South Africa
Vol.35 No.118 (December 2008), pp571-584
This article argues that due to the particular position of crime in South Africa, the resurgence of vigilantism needs to be re-evaluated in the light of the country’s attempt at institutionalising human rights as the new society’s founding values. Because many township dwellers see vigilantes as their protection against crime, vigilantism should be seen as a criticism of and a comment on human rights as the new expression of the country’s most intimate values. The article begins by introducing an ethnographic case study of a vigilante groups from Port Elizabeth’s townships, which has become incorporated as an official ‘Safety and Security’ structure under the Community policing forum. The article suggests that fighting crime relates to wider questions of the perceived need for discipline and corporal punishment in response to the erosion of social authority.