Democracy and its Discontents in South Africa's townships
New article by DIIS researcher on Sovereignty and Human Rights
Lars Buur's article on human rights and sovereignty in Review of African Political Economy (vol. 118: 571-584) argues that due to the particular position of crime in South Africa, the resurgence of vigilantism needs to be re-evaluated in light of the country's attempt at institutionalising human rights as the new society's founding values. The article argues that because many township dwellers see vigilantes as their protection against crime, vigilantism should be seen as a criticism of and a comment
on human rights as the new expression of the country's most intimate values.
The article begins by introducing an ethnographic case study of a vigilante group from Port Elizabeth's townships, which has become incorporated as an official 'Safety and Security' structure under the Community Policing Forum. Buur's article suggests that fighting crime relates to wider questions of the perceived need for discipline and corporal punishment in response to the erosion of social authority.