Vigilantism in South Africa carries historical imprints of past violence against black people

South Africa’s history of discrimination, racial segregation and extralegal violence has influenced patterns of violence today. Colonial and apartheid governments ruled through violence and racial oppression. Whether through torture, corporal punishment or killings, black lives were deemed infinitely expendable.

“Natives” were subjected to summary “justice” by mining companies, chiefs, native commissioners, and other administrative officials – who could all lawfully mete out unappealable, on the spot punishments. Extralegal (unlawful) violence by the police, white farmers and vigilantes, among others, was also tolerated.

On top of this forced relocations, dispossession, and spatially segregated black townships and bantustans – rural, impoverished areas established for the purpose of permanently removing black people from urban South Africa – resulted in multiple forms of violent dispute settlement. This is still apparent today.

South Africa remains a deeply violent society.

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Author: Gail Super

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