n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Police militarisation : is South Africa disproving or failing to learn from police history?

Volume 24, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



One of the challenges that faces post-colonial and post-conflict Africa has been the issue of the transformation and legitimisation of police agencies that were and are being used by either the military or the militias for non-policing purposes (Rauch & Van der Spuy, 2006: 15). Police demilitarisation in Africa, as in other parts of the world, had been driven by the need to improve police efficiency and effectiveness. The first national commissioner of the South African Police Service appointed under the new democratic dispensation post-1994, stressed the need for the police to make a clean break with the past. This resulted in the previously militarised police force being transformed into a civilian/community oriented police service that embodied the philosophy of community policing. This change also involved the changeover from a military rank structure to civilian rank labelling. In 2010 the South African Police Service reverted back to its original military rank structure saying that this was being done in order to improve discipline, with the ultimate inference being that it will enable the police to better deal with the high crime levels that are bedevilling communities. Analysing the history of militarisation and demilitarisation in Africa and around the world, this article seeks to determine whether this return to a military-style approach to policing in South Africa will disprove history by showing that a militarised police service can be more effective or reveal that South Africa has failed to learn from its history.

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