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Contradictions of DemocracyVigilantism and Rights in Post-Apartheid South Africa$
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Nicholas Rush Smith

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190847180

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190847180.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 14 May 2021

Taking Charge

Taking Charge

The Contradictory Pleasures of Citizen Crime-Fighting

(p.107) Chapter 5 Taking Charge
Contradictions of Democracy

Nicholas Rush Smith

Oxford University Press

Vigilantism is often understood as a substitute for state authority. If that is the case, why does the South African state encourage citizen crime-fighting, given risks that patrollers might resort to illegal violence? This chapter shows that the state promotes citizen crime-fighting to combat feelings of disempowerment produced by the fear of crime. It does so by examining two moments in a community policing program in Sebokeng. The first was a public spectacle relaunching the program where government ministers exhorted citizens to “take charge” of crime while suggesting citizens may need to occasionally violate legal procedures to do so. The second was a night of patrolling with a community policing group where initial fidelity to legal procedures gave way to targeting the homes of specific alleged criminals. The chapter shows how patrollers sometimes experience their strongest feelings of agency as they violated the state’s procedural protections for suspects.

Keywords:   community policing, crime-fighting, citizen, disempowerment, agency, legal procedures, Sebokeng

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