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UFS researcher fills void in South African policing history
2017-01-02

Description: Dr Cornelis Muller Tags: Dr Cornelis Muller 

Currently a Postdoctoral fellow in the International
Studies Group, Dr Cornelis Muller’s PhD thesis explores
late nineteenth century South African policing on the
Witwatersrand.
Photo: Rulanzen Martin

“I used policing on the Witwatersrand as a lens through which to examine aspects relating to state formation within the South African Republic.”

This is how Dr Cornelis Muller, a postdoctoral fellow in the International Studies Group at the University of the Free State (UFS), described his PhD thesis called Policing the Witwatersrand: A history of the South African Republic Police, 1886-1899. The thesis fills an empirical void in the history of settler colonial policing in South Africa.

His research was also featured in the South African Historical Journal, which is published by Routledge. Dr Muller received his PhD from the UFS during the 2016 Winter Graduation ceremonies. He received a scholarship from the university to conduct his three-year research.

Relationship between police and state examined

The study presents itself as an institutional biography in which the relationship between the South African Republic Police (known as the Zarps), the state, and broader society are examined. The period under investigation was a time when political, economic, and social complexities on the Witwatersrand created tension between South Africa and Great Britain.

An important theme throughout the thesis is the relationship between the police, the mining industry, and the so-called Uitlander community. Crime was also an important contributing factor to the complex relationship that developed between the Zarps and the policed in Johannesburg’s formative years.

“Johannesburg was a town under siege by a variety of crimes which ranged from vagrancy, drunkenness, gambling, and prostitution to robbery, murder, and assault,” said Dr Muller.

Archives in South Africa and Great Britain consulted
“My thesis follows a chronological approach in which various themes accounting for the development of the police on the Witwatersrand are highlighted.” Framed within the bureaucratic and administrative functioning of the Zarps, he examined aspects relating to crime, crisis, and conflict between the police and society. The thesis also details the relationship