Social Disorganisation, Social Capital and Violence Prevention in South Africa

  • T Emmett Child, Youth and Family Development Research Programme, Human Sciences Research Council.


High crime and violence rates in South Africa are associated with the progressive disintegration of families and communities that occurred under apartheid. Not only does social disorganisation lead to the breakdown of informal social control in communities and families, but it also weakens the capacities of communities to protect themselves against crime. Survey findings suggest that poor and socially disorganised communities are increasingly resorting to social isolation as a means of protecting themselves against crime. Evidence is accumulating both in South Africa and abroad that social disorganisation is not only strongly associated with high crime and violence rates, but also has a major impact on the effectiveness of crime prevention at the community level. This article explores the relationship between crime and social disintegration in South Africa. The article also reviews some of the international evidence that links violent crime to social cohesion, social capital and inequality, and argues that we cannot effectively combat crime and violence in South Africa without addressing the underlying social processes and inequalities in the society. The article concludes with a discussion of some of the potential implications that a social capital perspective might hold for violence prevention and safety promotion.

African Safety Promotion Vol.1(2) 2002: 4-18

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1728-774X