Pervasive, but not politicised: Everyday violence, local rule and party popularity in a Cape Town township

  • Laurence Piper
  • Joanna Wheeler


Through examining violence in the township of Imizamo Yethu in Cape Town, we show that leadership in this community is not based on violence, despite its pervasiveness in the settlement. Further, rule by local leaders and the state is often weak, and normally not violently enforced. This account challenges three common views in the literature. The first is that, under conditions of weak rule, violence is primarily about contests over political power. The use of violence by a variety of social actors in Imizamo Yethu, but rarely by political leaders or parties, challenges this assumption. The second is that violence is central to maintaining local rule – but in Imizamo Yethu leaders have seldom used coercion. Lastly, our case illustrates that effective local rule is not necessarily a condition of party identification, which is rooted in larger dynamics of state patronage and race politics that may even weaken local rule.


Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 1991-3877