One Nation, under Siege: Apartheid Is Becoming a Distant Memory in South Africa. but Is a Country This Consumed by Crime Really Free?

By Abramsky, Sasha | The American Prospect, April 2005 | Go to article overview

One Nation, under Siege: Apartheid Is Becoming a Distant Memory in South Africa. but Is a Country This Consumed by Crime Really Free?


Abramsky, Sasha, The American Prospect


ELEVEN YEARS AGO, MY FIRST YEAR LIVING IN NEW York, I sat on the roof of International House on the edge of Harlem, with hundreds of other students, raucously celebrating as elections in South Africa, half a world away, finished off the apartheid regime and brought Nelson Mandela's African National Congress to power. Drinking beers and singing freedom songs, none of us doubted that the election signified a historic event as transformative as the razing of the Berlin Wall.

Back then, New York, a city long plagued by high crime rates, drugs, and vicious gangs, was also undergoing a transformation, becoming a place of low crime and urban revival. But it was doing so partly through fairly brutal policing strategies that exacerbated racial divides. Police began systematic crackdowns on "lifestyle" crimes they had previously ignored--such as graffiti, street hustles, and minor drug use--on the theory that this would signal a restoration of public order. Meanwhile, in addition to these new coercive, "zero tolerance" tactics, the city was also embracing innovative crime-prevention methods such as an increased cooperation between police and community representatives, and the use of computerized statistical data (COMPSTAT), first pioneered by then-Transit Police Chief Jack Maple, to identify crime hot spots and place police patrols accordingly.

Criminologists are still debating the relative effects of get-tough policing and prosecution, computer-assisted techniques, and general societal changes, including a leveling off of crack usage and the end of crack-distribution turf wars, the demographic decline in the number of young men on the streets, and the booming economy of the 1990s, which lowered unemployment and also brought more money for drug rehabilitation and neighborhood-regeneration projects. But there is no debating the fact that New York City" became a safer place.

Today, meanwhile, South Africa is a year into its second decade of democratic rule. It is, in many ways, one of the most uplifting of recent international stories. Yet, tragically, many of the same crime issues that plagued New York are playing out on a far more devastating scale across South Africa, a land of more than 745,645 miles and more than 40 million people. With about 25,000 murders per year and tens of thousands more attempted murders, post-apartheid South Africa has murder rates only briefly approached in America during the worst years in the most run-down urban ghettos. An entire country lives, day in and day out, with the siege mentality that residents of the South Bronx, Anacostia, Compton, and Southside Chicago experienced during the late 1980s.

"There was a time we criminologists would have done the lefty thing and said it's a moral panic," says University of Cape Town criminology professor Elrena van der Spuy. "But, today, where does the panic end and reality begin? Dinner-table conversation in this country suggests a country at war with itself."

Lately, many of the policing strategies used to curtail crime in the Big Apple have been hawked to civic and business leaders in Cape Town and Johannesburg, first by former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton and then by ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Police threes have created specialized rapid reaction forces somewhat akin to the SWAT-team policing expanded in America during the 1990s. At times, the police have tried saturating high-crime neighborhoods. In central Cape Town, now a phenomenally dangerous city, a public-private law-enforcement partnership has worked to create zones of safety aggressively patrolled by police and private security, companies, comprehensively covered by surveillance cameras.

More than 187,000 sentenced prisoners and inmates awaiting trial are now behind bars in South Africa. Between 1996 and 2004, according to the latest report by, the Office of the Inspecting Judge, the number of inmates serving life sentences almost doubled and the number serving more than 10 years nearly quadrupled.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

One Nation, under Siege: Apartheid Is Becoming a Distant Memory in South Africa. but Is a Country This Consumed by Crime Really Free?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.