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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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Against Vigilantism

Against Vigilantism

Citizen and State Action to Combat Vigilantism

(p.170) Chapter 8 Against Vigilantism
Contradictions of Democracy

Nicholas Rush Smith

Oxford University Press

How have opponents of vigilantism challenged it? To answer this question, the chapter examines a commission of inquiry that emerged out of a social movement combatting vigilantism in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, and conducts a discourse analysis of the commission’s final report. The chapter argues that the commission’s focus on police efficiency has the effect of expressing faith in the procedures of the state’s judicial institutions to reduce vigilantism. This faith, however, overlooks the contradictions between the ends and means of law, first highlighted by Walter Benjamin; that is, the justice that law seeks and the inherent irregularity of the violence used to achieve it. In other words, for the commission, state violence becomes the solution to citizen violence—an ironic desire in a country long familiar with the horrible unpredictability of state violence.

Keywords:   Commission of Inquiry, vigilantism, Khayelitsha, Cape Town, Walter Benjamin

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