Popular Justice in the New South Africa

For all the hope stirred by the end of apartheid, the transition to democracy in South Africa, beginning in 1994, opened up a social and moral vacuum—not to mention a huge wealth-gap—in which violence and disorder, real and imagined, became commonplace. By the late 1990s, a police service regarded as incompetent, toothless, and overzealously committed to human rights was struggling to cope with rising rates of murder, rape, robbery, and car jacking. Frightened citizens, irrespective of race, class, geography, or gender, came to believe that the inability of government to guarantee their safety mocked their newfound freedoms.