Policing and Incarceration

Provisional police authority in Maputo’s inner-city periphery

In Maputo city, post-war liberalisation implied new police reforms based on the rule of law, but it also led to rising crime and an unequal distribution of public security provision that favours the inner-city over the poorer peripheries. This article explores how this spatial bordering of the city affected the configuration of police authority in an underprioritised inner-city periphery. Based on ethnography, I show how police officers struggle to perform their duty and assert authority through what I refer to as institutional–jurisdictional ‘bordering practices’. Central here is the borders that separate law from popular justice and civilians from the police as a state authority with the de jure monopoly on violence and law enforcement. The officers themselves continuously deborder their own distinct authority by resolving crimes informally and by relying on civilians. Yet, this co-exists with efforts to re-border their authority through displays of state power and threats of legal processes. These (de/re)bordering practices, I argue, reflect the provisional authority of the police. The officers constantly face conflicting demands: between the new rule of law restrictions and popular preferences for immediate justice, which are both informed by historical legacies of popular justice and by the spatial bordering of the city that produces the inner-city periphery as unsafe and uncertain spaces.

more articles from

Volume 38 Issue 3

Explore our Topics

Though not an exhaustive list, these are many of the main areas we cover.