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Crime and Punishment in Khayelitsha: Governing through the Community on a Local Scale

18 March 2015

Dr Gail Super presented a paper that analysed the overlaps between legal community-based crime prevention initiatives and punitive practises in Khayelitsha. The focus was not on the intensely violent spectacle of 'mob justice', where suspects are killed, but on the more ubiquitous, hybrid formations that also fall on the vigilantism continuum. These include coercive practises, such as banishment; corporal punishment, the retrieval of stolen goods by local policing formations (neighbourhood watches and community crime patrols), and trials conducted by street committees. One of the questions asked was 'how local ordering mechanisms engage with, and reconfigure, state law?' The central argument was that the notion of voluntarism, that is so important to the official discourse on crime, is particularly problematic when applied in poor communities with high rates of unemployment and crime.