Why we kill our women

2017-12-03 06:01

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Poverty plays a large role in tempting black men to kill for others.

Last week, a headline in one of the dailies screamed “Black Friday for Killers”. The killers being referred to were Oscar Pistorius and Christopher Panayiotou, who got lengthy prison sentences for killing their partners – Reeva Steenkamp and Jade Panayiotou, respectively.

The young women posed no threat to their partners. Their only crime was that they had intimate relationships with them – an act that led to their violent deaths at the very hands of people they loved and trusted.

Recent reports have singled out intimate partner violence as a leading cause of death among South African women. Our country is said to be one of those where femicide is on the increase.

As citizens, we have to interrogate all the facts at our disposal to be able to understand why we have turned into such a violent society.

As we mark the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, such revelations force us to think deeply as a nation and catechise the role played by men, and particularly black men, who unfortunately have had a hand in most of the well-publicised femicides in this country as killers for hire.

Although, in the case of Pistorius, no black man was involved. But there is no doubt in many of our minds, that Oscar kept guns and his “zombie stoppers” because he had one thing in mind, to shoot his perceived intruders – and it is anyone’s guess who he thought these intruders would be who deserved to be shot with such a deadly weapon.

The high-profile murders expose the challenges we face in terms of gender, socioeconomic problems and race. The examples of femicide may involve white, Asian or Indian men who are the masterminds. But what is common among them is that the hands that pulled the triggers are those of black men.

It seems for as long as black men are caught in the web of socioeconomic depression and an inability to fend for themselves, they will forever be the hired guns to commit violent crimes, including crimes against women in this country.

This perpetuates the unfortunate stereotype that black men are the most violent species in the country. But the numbers in prisons make it difficult to argue against that. It is also true that black men perpetrate the most violent crimes against other black men. This time you have to go to our morgues to see for yourself what I am talking about.

Our penchant for killing

Unfortunately, our penchant for killing has been recognised overseas, as the murder of Anni Dewani while on her honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010 showed.

We need to worry that someone sitting in London has the perception that if they want a murder committed, they can fly into South Africa and drive to a township, where they will find men “hungry” enough to commit such a reprehensible deed for money.

Mziwamadoda Qwabe, Xolile Mngeni, Monde Mbolombo and Zola Tongo – allegedly at the behest of her husband, Shrien Dewani – did just that. They killed an innocent woman for money. They were convicted and sentenced, but the dirt couldn’t stick to Dewani.

Even decades before that, black hands were behind the 1996 murder of student doctor Zahida Sabadia who was found dead after a “hijack”. Her husband, businessman and medical doctor Omar Sabadia, would later confess to having hired Patrick Manyape (a construction worker), Albert Moeketsane and Richard Malema to kill her and make it look like a hijacking.

When one looks at the sums involved, one realises how desperate and eager these men were to get their hands bloodied for money – a pittance in most of the cases. The fact that a human life was at stake did not seem to have deterred them one bit.

I often ask myself why these men would be willing to kill complete strangers, and harmless women for that matter, for R10 000 – a sum Dewani allegedly offered his wife’s killers.

That is certainly not a life changing sum by anyone’s standards. So insignificant is the money offered that, when arrested, most of the accused couldn’t afford good lawyers and ended up with heavy prison sentences, while their paymasters and the masterminds of the murders got off scot-free, as was the case with Dewani.

On the other hand, we are forced to concede that, if you live in poverty in Khayelitsha and no one in your immediate family has any income, any sum of money does sound lucrative and could be life changing. Although there is no excuse for taking an innocent life, we can never fully understand what goes on in a poor man’s mind unless we walk in his shoes.

But we have to deal with the high levels of poverty – the cause of many of our social ills. South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world and, without condoning violence and brutality, one has to wonder if we should really be surprised when black men become killers for hire.

Go to any township or informal settlement on any weekday and you will see groups of young men walking aimlessly or sitting or standing at street corners, without having anything meaningful to do.

Thousands of decent young men who aspire to go to university or find meaningful jobs to support themselves and their families, find themselves isolated and without an income. Some get desperate and resort to crime, including robberies and heists.

We cannot allow this ostrich mentality to persist, which says these are just criminals at work and that only blacks have an affinity for violent crime. We need to open our eyes and deal with the structural issues of unemployment and inequality that breed violence, hate and other social ills.

Prison alone won’t serve as a deterrent for a desperate man who feels worthless. We need to find effective ways to engage our young men and women, and channel them into meaningful enterprises that will get them dreaming about a prosperous future through legitimate work.

Botha works as a commissioner at the Commission for Gender Equality

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Read more on:    oscar pistoirus  |  christopher panayiotou  |  women abuse  |  violence

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