Second Take: To hurt and to rape until death do us part

2013-07-28 10:00

Who told South African men that their spouses belonged to them? Who told us that the bodies of our lovers, girlfriends and wives were our property to beat, rape or mutilate when we felt like it?

Someone did, because everywhere I look I see men treating their women like objects. Their objects.

Take the case of brother Johan Kotzé from Modimolle.

He was so angry with his estranged wife Ina Bonnette that he decided to punch nails into her breasts until the silicon came out. He also cut off her nipples and mutilated her vagina with pliers, before paying other men to rape her.

What caused brother Johan to do this to the woman he once loved? She allegedly cheated on him and that made him very cross.

Ina was his possession and she was not allowed to see or speak to other men. When she did, she was punished.

The same fate befell Neo Pearl Motlhoki. In 2010, a brother from Rustenburg, who had been Neo’s partner for 23 years, set her alight because he was jealous. Neo was a pretty girl and men probably loved hanging around her.

For a number of years, he had beaten her up, but even that was not enough for this brother. No other man would have his woman; she belonged to him.

So he poured paraffin over her petite frame and set fire to her.

Last week, she told the Bikers for Mandela team how he came from behind and threw a burning object down her clothes.

She went to the police, but he made false promises of looking after her and her three children. Then he walked away with another woman.

Today she lives in Botswana, disfigured and poor.

Another brother, Paul Nothnagel from Alberton, decided last week that if he couldn’t have his recently divorced wife, Linda, no other man would. So he waited for her at a busy intersection last Thursday as she was dropping off their daughters at the bus stop and pumped 14 bullets into his ex-wife and children.

Linda survived but their teenage daughters were buried this week.

Brother Paul shot himself after making sure his daughters and ex-wife wouldn’t have other men in their lives.

Ina, Neo and Linda – all three women were the victims of possessive spouses who chose destroying them, literally, rather than see them alive with other men.

What made us become like this? Or have we always been like this? Are South African men so insecure about themselves that they would go to these violent lengths to prevent their partners from falling out of love with them?

I purposely decided not to use the M-word in relation to these three men, because they are not monsters. They are our brothers. Othering them as evil monsters or animals won’t help us to understand what moved them to commit these terrible deeds.

All three of them were walking, working, even praying with the rest of us until as late as last week. They were “normal”: guys who enjoyed their braais and rugby or soccer on weekends.

Were there early warning signs the rest of us missed or ignored? I’m sure if you asked Ina, Neo and Linda, they would have a few stories to tell.

We’ve all heard or seen these men. They constantly monitor their women’s cellphones to make sure they’re not communicating with other men.

They are obsessive about the movements of their spouses; they prohibit them from going out with others or phone them every five minutes to check where they are.

I’ve even heard of men who plant secret tracking devices on their partners to trace their movements.

These three are not extreme examples – they started out as “normal” women beaters and ended up deadly.

But we do nothing about it, because it is not our fathers or brothers or uncles or cousins who do these terrible things. It is those monsters out there.

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