Johannesburg’s western neighbourhoods of Westbury and Eldorado Park have long experienced serious problems derived from the presence of drug gangs and other forms of organized crime, resulting in a cyclical pattern of
violence and criminality, followed by backlashes in the form of community protests and state responses. Law enforcement interventions have generally only temporarily quelled the violence before another cycle of gang activity, violence and protests flares up once again. Such continual cycles have been the pattern defining this urban area since the early 1990s. The costs of crime borne by the citizens of western Johannesburg are high and it is essential to reverse the cycle of violence and despair for these communities to thrive.

This report focuses principally on gang-engendered violence in the city’s western suburbs of Westbury and Eldorado Park (and, to a lesser extent, Newclare), although other neighbouring urban areas that fall within the Johannesburg metropolitan area are also briefly analyzed. Broadly, in this urban area there have been three cycles of violence, and accompanying periods of protest and responses by community leaders and the state since the start of South Africa’s post-apartheid democratic era in 1994.

Ending the cycles of violence

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Mark Shaw

Mark is the Director of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Mark is also a Senior Associate of the LSE International Drug Policy Unit, (LSE US Centre). He previously held the National Research Foundation Professor of Justice and Security at the University of Cape Town, Department of Criminology.

Mark worked for ten years at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), including as Inter-regional Advisor, Chief of the Criminal Justice Reform Unit and with the Global Programme against Transnational Organised Crime, where he lead projects and provided technical assistance to national governments, bilateral donors and international organisations in Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, West Africa, the Sahel and Southern Africa, on security sector and criminal justice reform, and countering transnational threats.

A South African national, before joining the UN, Mark held a number of positions in government and civil society where he worked on issues of public safety and urban violence in the post-apartheid transition.

He holds a PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and has published widely on organised crime, security and justice reform issues.

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Kim Thomas

Kim is an analyst at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. Kim holds an MPhil in Public Law from the University of Cape Town and an LLB from Stellenbosch University. She has worked as a researcher on organized crime in South Africa, with a focus on human trafficking and contract killings. She is also an admitted South African attorney with experience in the legal aid sector, working on issues relating to socio-economic rights.

Kim is currently working on a project called Assassination Witness which records criminal hits in South Africa and their impact.

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