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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:People's courts and popular politics
Author:Seekings, J.ISNI
Year:1990
Periodical:South African Review - SARS
Issue:5
Pages:119-135
Language:English
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:popular justice
townships
Abstract:The much-publicized emergence of 'people's courts' in 1985-1986 gave rise to many varied and highly polarized interpretations. For many participants and sympathetic observers of South Africa's township resistance, people's courts were an innovative and positive achievement in the history of popular struggle. For the State and most of the press, people's courts were a barbaric instrument of intimidation and repression. Remarkably little analysis has been undertaken on people's courts. This paper, which is based on evidence emerging from a number of trials in State courts, is concerned with broad historical and sociological, but not criminological, questions. It shows that people's courts arose from a long tradition of extra-State township courts in South Africa. These courts, 'makgotla', presided over civil and family disputes, rarely over serious criminal cases. Their aim was generally conciliatory, and their sentences not severe. Despite some continuities, there were considerable differences between these 'makgotla' and the people's courts that emerged in the mid-1980s. These differences were due to the changing context of township politics, altering the character of participants in township politics. Members of progressive civic and youth organizations took over the roles previously played by conservatives. The courts became self-serving and lost community support. They became an integral part of a broad national movement that sought to transform the State itself. Notes, ref.
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