Gentlemen or Villains, Thugs or Heroes? The Social Economy of Crime in South Africa

Image: Flickr, Roy Blumenthal
Image: Flickr, Roy Blumenthal

In the past decade South Africa has seen an exponential growth in cash-in-transit robberies, vehicle hijacking, illicit drug trade and white-collar crime, among others.

The level of skill in the planning and execution of these organised criminal acts is creating considerable problems for the police, prosecutors, financial institutions and private security companies. Adding to the problem is the level of support these organised crime networks cultivate in their communities by using certain myths and justifications to legitimise their behaviour; and through financial incentives. The latter creates short-term benefits of economic security for some of these communities. However, there is a need to recognise that whatever the short-term benefits there may be for some local communities, in the long term the organised crime economy is not sustainable and it is destructive to the development of these communities. This economy can, in the long term, contribute to the collapse of the legitimate economy and supplant traditional state structures and roles. Thus an understanding of the relationship of organised criminal networks with other crime groups, the state and society in general is critical to more effectively combat their activities.

ISBN: 1-919969-07-1

1 Jul 2008