Could allowing an affair prevent murder?

2016-09-06 09:39

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Cape Town - A Cape Town-based gender activist has called for an overhaul of relationships and marriage, to allow for affairs and polygamy, to keep families together and prevent violence.

“Extramarital affairs come and go. It’s a way of life,” says Siwe Coka, a familiar figure at court cases where a partner has been accused of murder.

She attends these cases in support of the victims, to find out what the relationship was like before the partner was killed, and to learn what went wrong.

So far she has concluded that in many cases the threat of being dumped, jealousy, or accusations of infidelity played a central role in the crime. In many cases, the tragedy leaves children without a parent.

She believes people need to talk about whether monogamy really works, and whether open relationships would lower intimate partner violence.

She is following a number of court cases where jealousy or infidelity are involved – a spurned wife, a pregnant lover, and a husband having an affair.

“For example, if we discover that we have problems in a marriage, what other mechanisms can we put in place to resolve that before it reaches crisis level?”

Counselling is one option. Polygamy is another.

This system often works because there is usually discussion at the family level over whether it will be allowed or not, Coka says.

“In black marriages, polygamy is a traditional norm, but there are women now in the 21st century, who are finding problems with it. That's fine. But at least you put it on the table and discuss it.”

She recommends it should be considered an alternative in white culture.

“How can we then say, once there is an extra-marital affair, how can we prevent spouses losing their lives, leaving children behind?”

Put it in the contract

Coka says before couples get married, they should draw up an ante-nuptial contract which deals not only with how assets will be divided in case of a split, but also what they will do if there is an emotional upheaval, such as an affair.

They should write down ways to deal with it and find alternatives to prevent a complete breakdown of the family.

Coka suggests couples include in their contracts whether a lover will be permitted, and what the rules will be.  

“We need a new paradigm of co-existence. We are diverse as a couple. We think differently, we have different schools of thought. How do we align those for workable relationships?

“I know it raises ethics, morality. But why don't we be honest and face it that in life these things happen and there are mitigating and aggravating circumstances?”

She says in many of the murder cases she has sat in on, there should have been another way to resolve conflict.

Susan Rohde

She is following the Susan Rohde case, being heard in the Stellenbosch Magistrate’s Court. She feels sympathy not only for her family, but for husband Jason. He has been charged with killing her in their hotel room at the Spier wine estate on July 24.

“He has worked so hard. I feel sorry for him as well. Just like that, everything changes,” Coka says, snapping her fingers.

She worries that Susan may be seen as a “nutcase” for going to therapy and saying she was feeling suicidal. This has emerged during her husband’s bail application.

“I hate the fact that she is being reduced to being a nutcase now. Yes, she went for counselling, but it's a healthy thing. In fact to be seeing a psychiatrist and counselling, for me, that means that you are strong.

“What is it that we can do to help families, so that they don't find themselves on the wrong side of the law?”

An honest discussion about new forms of relationships would help find solutions, she says.

Some recent cases:

* Former Jozi FM DJ Donald Sebolai was sentenced to 20 years behind bars on 4 March 2016 for the murder of his girlfriend Dolly Tshabalala in June 2014. He maintained his innocence throughout. The court heard that Tshabalala had accused Sebolai of cheating when he asked her to stay away for a few days.

* Thandi Maqubela was found guilty in 2013 of the murder of her husband, Western Cape High Court acting Judge Patrick Maqubela who was found dead on his bed in his Sea Point flat on June 5, 2009. He had apparently asked for a divorce.

* Dina Rodrigues arranged for baby Jordan Leigh Norton to be killed on June 15, 2005. She hired Sipho Mfazwe, Mongezi Bobotyane, Bonginkosi Sigenu and Zanethemba Gwada to kill the baby, which her boyfriend Neil Wilson had with another woman, Natasha Norton.  

Read more on:    thandi maqubela  |  jason ­rohde  |  susan rohde  |  donald sebolai  |  cape town

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