PAGAD in International Relations

Pagad (People Against Gangsterism and Drugs) entered the South African political landscape in dramatic fashion. On the night of the 4th August 1996, Pagad instigated the public execution of Hard Livings gang leader Rashaad Staggie. Images of Staggie’s burning body were broadcast worldwide. Two years later it was fingered in a spate of bombings in Cape Town. Starting in 1998, bombing targets included South African authorities, moderate Muslims, synagogues, gay nightclubs, tourist attractions, and Western-associated restaurants. The most prominent attack during this time was the bombing on 25 August 1998 of the Cape Town Planet Hollywood.

In the years that followed most media covered was mostly reactionary, focused on either vigilantism or terrorism and the threat that pagad posed to peace and security. Pagad was presented as an isolated, militant, and increasingly, a criminal organisation. This portrayal fails to take into account the changing global climate at the time: the rise of corporate global capitalism and the adjacent rise in Islamic militancy. Nor does it consider the cultural, religious, and political linkages that contributed to the emergence and articulation of Pagad in a local context.

Last year the release of PAGAD leader Abdus-Salaam Ebrahim sparked a revival and a repositioning of the organisation, as well as renewed media interest.

We revisit the story within the context of the growing recognition of Islam AS a theory of International Relations and not simply a subject of study within orthodox International Relations. Does Pagad and its history, its context within the local and the international support Islam AS a theory of International Relations; inherently political and necessarily international?

Engaging the literal, figurative, imaginary, symbolic and political implication of Pagad, we review the rise of corporate global culture in the late 90s and the adjacent corporatisation an globalisation of the Cape Town drug trade with the emergence of “the Firm”, in conjunction with the growing miltancy of Islam on a local level and internationally. Here local and global are inextricably linked to produce new unruly ‘truths.’ Using stories and polemics, and unpacking symbols and myths we travel from Planet Hollywood to The Firm, via Woodstock and the Cape Flats to reread and rewrite history.


Further reading

Islam as a Theory of International Relations? John Turner, e-International Relations

Rethinking International Relations Theory in Islam: Toward a More Adequate Approach, Mohammad Abo-Kazleh

Islam and International Relations Theory blog, Meshari Alruwaih

South African National Intelligence Agency – Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) Al-Mujii Al Islamiyaj - a leaked briefing document prepared for the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, during 1998 in response to the “Muslim uprising” in the Western Cape Province – with commentary

The Cape of Good Dope? A post-apartheid story of gangs and vigilantes by Ashwin Desai (2004)

Problematising the making of good and evil : gangs and PAGAD by Suren Pillay, Critical Arts : A Journal of South-North Cultural and Media Studies, Volume 16, 2002
In late 1995 a movement emerged from the Cape Flats called the People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD). It emerged from neighbourhood watch groups and although it claimed a diverse support base, it had an overwhelmingly Muslim face. Its stated aims were to remove gangsters and end the sale of drugs in communities on the Cape Flats. The dramatic killing of one of Cape Town’s most notorious gang leaders by a group of PAGAD supporters immediately catapulted this organisation, and the presence of gangs, into the public space. This paper is an attempt to problematise representations, of both PAGAD and gangs, in the media and academic studies that had been done thus far. It seemed to me that the representations and studies were based on a set of politico-philosophical assumptions that led to the generic categorisations of these phenomena. From these categorisations derivative discourses offering programmatic solutions arise. The argument of this paper is that, firstly, the identity of the gangster in Cape Town – as derivative of poverty, as anti-social, as a result of the Group Areas Act – and that of PAGAD – as representative of a homogenous Islam and as the local incarnation of a global ‘Islamic threat’ – obscures their particularity and specificity. I argue that a richer grasp of their constitutive dynamics will be obtained if we explore their identities as non-static ‘processes’. These processes involve locating identity formation within the interface of globality and locality: the symbolic borderlands of contingency, which bring to the fore constitutive conditions of ambiguity and hybridity1 . The paper is an argument in three movements. Firstly, I explore the relationship between globalisation and culture and between the local and global, which informs my argument. The paper thereafter takes as its focus the ‘construction’ of the gangster in Cape Town. The third part of the paper problematises the ‘construction’ of PAGAD that has emerged.

The ideology of Islamic fundementalist groups in Algeria, Sudan and South Africa – a political analysis

South Africa’s Operational and Legislative Responses to Terrorism H Boshoff and M Schönteich, Published in ISS Monograph No 74, July 2002

Gangs, Pagad & the State: Vigilantism and Revenge Violence in the Western Cape by Bill Dixon & Lisa-Marie Johns, csvr, Violence and Transition Series, Vol. 2, May 2001.

Jihad Against Drugs In Cape Town: A Discourse-Centred Analysis by Abdulkader Tayob, UCT

M&G Archived Coverage of PAGAD

South Africa : Pagad, Islam and the challenge of the local, by Gabeba Baderoon Ecquid Novi, 2005
This article examines representations of Islam in South African media through an analysis of images of Pagad in one particular South African newspaper, the Cape Times in one week of coverage from 5 to 12 August 1996.

The Muslim media in SA


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