n Journal for Contemporary History - Vigilantism : a theoretical perspective as applied to people's courts in post-1994 South Africa

Volume 36, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0258-2422
  • E-ISSN: 2415-0509



The article investigated vigilantism as phenomenon in South Africa. A metatheoretical framework was developed through which the constructed contextual and specific criteria were tested against one case study on people's courts. The probability of the occurrence of vigilantism is more likely if the following context criteria are present: Society experiences a state in disequilibrium, the state is dysfunctional, power vacuums exist and high levels of violence occur. People's courts have been a continuous phenomenon in post-1994 South Africa. People's courts qualify as vigilante groups and the context in which they occur is in line with the identified context criteria. This research has shown that vigilantism is a reality in post-1994 South Africa and a real threat to the authority of the state and requires the state's attention and immediate action.

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