Why are more South Africans resorting to mob justice? Why We Kill explores the current crisis of vigilantism
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Why do so many South Africans prefer to take the law into their own hands rather than rely on the police? Why are those who do so often cheered or sympathised with?

In Why We Kill: Mob Justice and the New Vigilantism in South Africa, Karl Kemp delves into the unsettling rise of vigilante justice in South Africa.

From shocking statistics to recent cases, Why We Kill uncovers the roots, realities, and consequences of this alarming trend.

Of the unprecedented 27 000 recorded murders in South Africa in 2022, at least 1 894 – or 7 per cent – were attributed to mob justice and vigilantism, more than double the number from five years before. In the first nine months of 2023, a further 1 472 mob justice deaths had already been registered.

Mob justice is nothing new, but in recent years it has taken on an undeniably desperate, furious edge. From the breathtakingly violent Zandspruit massacre in May 2021, to the killings during the July unrest two months later, to the march of Operation Dudula across the nation in 2022, vigilantism – and the condoning of it – has never before captured the zeitgeist of South Africa so sharply. What has changed in the past few years, and what does it augur for the future?

Following three recent cases of mob justice, from the hellish metropolitan townships of Gauteng to the far-flung bushveld of northern Limpopo, and drawing on extensive research and interviews, Why We Kill explores South Africa’s current crisis of vigilantism.

About the author

Karl Kemp is a South African writer with an LLM in public international law from the University of Amsterdam. As a journalist, he has covered drug trafficking, gang violence, separatist movements, globalisation, nationalism and cultural identity, among other topics, for various publications, including Rolling Stone, VICE and Vrye Weekblad. After completing his law degree, Kemp interned at the International Criminal Court, working in the investigations division as an analyst in the field of international criminal law. He is the author of Promised Land: Exploring South Africa’s Land Conflict.

Categories Non-fiction South Africa South African Current Affairs

Tags Karl Kemp New books New releases Penguin Random House SA Why We Kill

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