Suzette Heald, writing in an article titled "State, Law, and Vigilantism in Northern Tanzania," found in the April 2006 edition of African Affairs, describes the history and impact of the sungusungu. She explains:
From the early 1980s onwards in central Tanzania, Sukuma and Nyamwesi villagers villagers began to organize their own form of collective policing which became known throughout Tanzania as sungusungu. Over time, these groups, which initially by-passed the official agents of state, far from being rejected, have become an integral part of the administrative structures of vast areas of rural Tanzania.Debaters running up against Weber-based cases will be interested in Heald's analysis of the heterogeneity of modern sovereignty.
Conventionally, the state is seen after Weber as having a monopoly on the use of legitimate force. This assumes that the state is a unified entity, a single Leviathan. But modern democratic states are anything but monolithic: they have multiple specialized institutions, claiming different kinds of legitimacy as recognized from both within and without.It is precisely this lack of unanimity that not only allowed the sungusungu to flourish, but provided them with greater legitimacy.
If the political and administrative arm of the government supported these groups - and continues to do so - it was quite otherwise with the police and the judiciary. Clearly, the actions of sungusungu groups constituted a 'taking of the law into their own hands' and were in any event outside the law, challenging the powers the judiciary took as its own, of arrest, trial, and punishment. They directly undercut the very rationale of the official agents of the law. More cynically, it could be said... that both police and judiciary found not only their role pre-empted but also the graft which accompanied it. They acted swiftly in attempts to suppress these groups through prosecutions. In the process, they demonstrated only further to the ordinary populace, that they were not the enemies of crime but in league with it.All this is to say that, in the Affirmative view, there are two primary reasons why "the government has failed to enforce the law." One is a lack of capability; a second is corruption. Either can justify vigilantism.
And, as Heald argues, in the long term, vigilantism can spur government reform. In Tanzanzia, the sungusungu
... have altered the nature of state power at the local level and initiated long-term reforms. The sungusungu have come to operate in a distinctive space; co-opting government and, in turn, co-opted by it. Communities have taken back power, developed their own policing capacity and, in so doing, effectively re-invented themselves. With reformatory agendas, they have evolved new normative structures and modes of co-operation and organization which both actually and potentially have far-reaching consequences for economic and social welfare. A new vision of community responsibility is heralded and held out as an ideal. In the same way, perhaps, they have reformed and reclaimed the state, with the administration demonstrating an increasing responsiveness to the priorities of local communities and allowing them a greater degree of autonomy in the management of their own affairs.When taken in the context of the resolution--justifying the practice only when the government has failed to enforce the law--vigilantism does not have to lead inexorably to lawlessness. Rather, it can help restore and strengthen the legitimacy of the state.