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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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Rights in Translation

Rights in Translation

Vigilantism and the Meanings of Institutional Effectiveness and Failure

Chapter:
(p.81) Chapter 4 Rights in Translation
Source:
Contradictions of Democracy
Author(s):

Nicholas Rush Smith

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190847180.003.0005

If as is often argued, vigilante violence is caused by failures in policing, why would crowds attack suspects under arrest? To answer this question, this chapter examines a 2006 case in which two suspected rapists were dragged from a police car in KwaMashu and stoned to death. Interviews with residents reveal claims that the state’s procedural protections for suspects perpetuate insecurity, as suspects may be released following arrest and continue preying on residents. That is, even under circumstances when the state performs its duties, like arresting suspected criminals, some residents interpret such institutional effectiveness as potentially leading to state “failure” because the suspects are subject to juridical protections that could allow them to continue committing crimes and perpetuate local insecurity. By recognizing these ambiguous meanings of rights, we can explain vigilantism in cases where state institutions function effectively and account for why citizens would challenge the state’s legal processes through acts of vigilantism.

Keywords:   vigilantism, vigilante violence, institutional failure, institutional effectiveness, rights, KwaMashu

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