n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Vigilantism in South Africa in the pre- and post-1994 periods : causes, similarities and differences

Volume 28, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



The end of the Cold War resulted in governments focusing more on the prevention of crime and violence with superpower rivalry no longer obscuring other socio-political issues. Increasing media focus on incidents of vigilantism and the way in which it manifests as mob and related political violence, xenophobia, organised crime and related gang activities, raises the question as to what extent the lack of proper policing is responsible for the occurrence of these phenomena. Some of them are claimed to be crime-combating activities in the absence of proper policing and are regarded as part of alternative ordering structures in South African society with the affected communities in many instances accused of incompetency and corruption against the police by the affected communities. Vigilantism in its many manifestations poses serious problems for policing and democracy in general. This article assesses vigilantism in some of its manifestations as forms of non-state violence, as well as the causes of vigilante activities. The phenomenon of vigilantism in the period prior to 1994 is compared to the post-1994 period in terms of causes/motives, different manifestations, policing, and activities disguised as acts of crime prevention.

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