South Africa. Vigilantism and xenophobia thrive when the justice system and policing fail the people

Paul Hoffman SC is a trustee of Accountability Now.

It is the unenviable task of the government to foster respect for the rule of law among all people in the country. This is best done by creating a law enforcement norm that people do not feel the need to resort to self-help and self-defense.

Reports in the press of the resurgence of vigilantism in the form of xenophobic attacks by Operation Dudula supporters against some foreigners residing in South Africa, allegedly undocumented, who allegedly deprive locals of jobs , suggest that it is time to examine some of the causes of this virulent form of vigilance.

It is worth reflecting on the conditions in society that breed levels of frustration, even anger, that allow vigilantism to flourish as provocateurs incite ordinary people to take justice into their own hands by attacking foreigners from other parts. from Africa who have emigrated in search of work and a better life than that available in their country of origin.

When the Constitutional Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional in South Africa’s new progressive democracy, it spelled out what should be done about violence…