Neither Loyalty, Nor Fear: Some Thoughts on Building Greater Respect for Justice and Law in South Africa

In the midst of the current crisis of crime and violence, it seems almost trite to state that there is a need for greater respect for justice and the law in South Africa. As reflected in some recent studies on organised crime, attitudes of ambivalence towards the law on the part of many South Africans contribute to an environment in which organised, and other crime, flourishes. Known criminals are widely tolerated, or even admired – notably if they are perceived as preying on people from other communities. This forms part of a culture which also condones other illegal practices, spanning everything from the buying of stolen goods and illegal reconnections, to corruption and white-collar crime. The fact that there is also a significant problem of vigilantism is also obviously a manifestation of a lack of respect for the law. Vigilantism is, in part, motivated by the sense that people have that they need to take the law into their own hands as they cannot rely on the criminal justice system to enforce the law. This belief in the ineffectiveness of the criminal justice system in turn provides vigilantes with the confidence that, in punishing the alleged perpetrators of the original crime, they themselves can violate the law with impunity.

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