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The Nature of Crime in the Apartheid Era South Africa

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The nature of crime in the apartheid era South Africa can be directed to the colonial forces that were in power. This has been rooted in the notion that violence in South Africa has become normative rather than deviant and it has come to be regarded as an appropriate means of resolving social, political and even domestic conflict.

During the late 1800s most South Africa males worked in mines, as this one of the few professions they could go into. They usually had to leave their families to go work in the mines. This physical and dangerous work often resulted in the mines being assaulted by their white superiors. This could be said to influence what was called ‘ethnic faction fights’ which occurred regularly.

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Criminal gangs made it more difficult for mine workers as they were constantly as the former would target any job seekers around the mining areas. As the South African war (1899-1902) drew closer the British tightened control of the black population which led to an increase in gangsterism as a form of resistance, these gangs would hide in these mine. The increase in criminal gangs led to police taking drastic measure, going as far as hanging those guilty of murdering whites. The criminal gangs soon went from preying on miners to getting involved in rape cases. White authorities paid little attention to this unless the crimes involved any white employees or officials, hence they rarely addressed the problem. The absence of regulation resulted in contributed to more cycles of ethnic faction fights. In 1929-1930 continuous violence occurred disrupting mining operation, forming authorities to take action. This led to suspects being deported and hence criminal gangs reallocated to townships. These groups gave rise to a Russians migrant criminal society in the mid 1900s. They expanded with many gang chapters across Johannesburg making their income off mine workers ‘protection fees’. Criminal gang culture flourished towards the 1940s as they were able to expand and take over large territories due to their increase in members. They were involved in all sort of criminal activities on a daily basis. Due to the control of territories, violence among different gangs occurred frequently ranging from murders to assault to sexual rivalry. This caused chaos in the townships as it slowly became common for youngsters to join gangs. Police were more focused on enforcing racial legislation than addressing this issue.

Due to the police authorities inability to combat this violence, neighbourhood residents started taking matters into their own hands by setting up watch posts and having frequent patrols at night in an attempt to reduce violence in their communities. This attempt by residents did lower crime rates even though they committed crimes by using physical force against those caught.

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