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"Dirty Harry" is Back: Vigilantism in South Africa -- The (Re)emergence of the "Good" and "Bad" Community

NCJ Number
African Security Review Volume: 9 Issue: 1 Dated: 2000 Pages: 18-28
Daniel Nina
Date Published
11 pages

This article examines vigilantism in South Africa.


The article suggests that contemporary vigilantism in South Africa is a continuation by other means of popular forms of pre-1994 justice. The most important distinctive feature of the current situation (compared to that of the 1980's and early 1990's) is that current manifestations of vigilantism invoke an "imagined order." It is not the order of the past that is being invoked, but an ideal order of peace and security still to come. South Africa's long tradition of popular forms of justice will likely continue, but it is unclear whether the tradition will continue to adopt, on certain occasions, a vigilante mode. The article argues that vigilante activities associated with a political motive should not be permitted in today's democratic society. Further, it recommends legislation to regulate the emergence of popular forms of justice and policing. Legislation is also needed to address the complaints of communities about high levels of crime and related social problems, while education on human and constitutional rights should be provided to all. Notes