alexa Security and party politics in Cape Town

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Security and party politics in Cape Town

Despite a long academic debate on the patrimonial dimension of the state in Africa and a more recent interest in African political parties, the effect of patronage and party politics on governability in Africa’s cities remains poorly addressed in the academic literature. This includes the case in South Africa when one looks at the security sector, which to a certain extent, looks like a depoliticised field of expertise. Popular claims for security seem to be a side issue in the literature on social movements, while vigilante specialists and policing experts do not place party politics at the core of security issue challenges, especially in poor townships. The provision of security in poor neighbourhoods is an important resource in the struggle for political support however. This is examined through two case studies in Cape Town Coloured townships, considering the role played by political leaders, NGO leaders and key officials in grassroots mobilisations for security. These mobilisations are not only about politicking however; ‘ordinary members’ of local security organisations also get involved for motivations, which have nothing to do with confrontational party politics. These different agendas between ordinary members and local leaders cannot be read as the manifestation of a fundamental opposition between the popular classes and a westernised elite as suggested by Charterjee. It reveals instead prevalent and ambivalent relationships between partisan politics and popular mobilisations for security in a context of high insecurity.
 
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