Continuities and Discontinuities in Security Deliberations in Contemporary South Africa: Archival Reflections

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 14:00
Location: John Bassett Theatre (102) (MTCC NORTH BUILDING)
Oral Presentation
Elrena VAN DER SPUY, University of Cape Town, South Africa
This paper reflects on continuities and changes in the constructions of security in contemporary South Africa. It does so from a historical vantage point and by drawing on archival sources such as Commissions of Inquiry in which the police feature in one or other critical way. The archival record reveals no less than 44 Commissions of Inquiry for the period 1910 and 2012.

Public Commissions of Inquiries into police and policing constitute a rich resource for reflecting on the form, content and impact of security paradigms. An interpretative reading of the findings of a select number of Commissions allow us to examine the social context within which security paradigms are constructed. Commissions reveal the normative assumptions embedded within security deliberations at any particular point in time. Commissions also reveal the political imperatives at play and the contestations between competing interest groups over the shape and content of security. A longitudinal historical approach allow us to identify patterns in security debates.

Using South Africa as a case study, the historical enquiry brings to light the fluidity, contestations and complexities of security deliberations. Questions about What kind of security we have in mind and Whose security should be prioritised are integral to such deliberations. The answers provided to those questions across time reveal both discontinuities and continuities in policies pursued in Apartheid and post-Apartheid South Africa.