Local Politics and the Circulation of Community Security Initiatives in Johannesburg


The article analyses the emergence and circulation of community‐driven security initiatives in two types of setting in Johannesburg, South Africa: street patrols and community courts in pre‐apartheid and apartheid townships on the one hand; road closures in post‐apartheid middle‐class suburbs on the other. In spite of the obvious contrasts, the two types of community security initiatives share two important features: originating in a series of confrontations between the state and community groups; and being shaped, used and driven in accordance with local political interests, by existing or emerging local elites building their constituencies in the city. This grid of analysis stressing the political dynamics of community‐driven security initiatives is applied to the global model of community policing, recently imported to South Africa. It usefully complements more classic neoliberal understandings of what community policing means for the governance of security in contemporary African cities.