Political dissent manifests itself through expressions of political opposition in ways that can either be regarded as legitimate and lawful, or as unlawful because they contravene the laws of the state. The potentially most destructive form of political dissent is that which is expressed through acts of violence by supporters of a particular political cause. The dividing line between legitimate forms of political dissent and those violent acts of political dissent that are regarded as unacceptable and unlawful is often difficult to identify because of legal uncertainty and because governments use arbitrary criteria to draw such distinction. Why do political groups that initially employ legitimate expressions of political dissent ultimately resort to strategies of violence and terror? This paper aims to contribute to a better understanding of the nature and role of political dissent in a democracy and of how the state should respond to its various manifestations.
About the author
Anneli Botha is a senior researcher on terrorism at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Cape Town. Before joining the ISS in March 2003 she was a member of the South African Police Service: Crime Intelligence for ten years. She holds an MA in Political Studies from the Rand-Afrikaans University. Her interests in Islamic studies and trends in, and the development of, terrorism led to a thesis on Pagad’s structure and activities and government reaction to the organisation.