Patriarchal and traditional structures such as paying a dowry or lobola for a woman should be interrogated and looked at in a different way, as they make men think they are entitled to women’s bodies.
This is according to Deputy Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Buti Manamela, who was speaking at the emotionally charged memorial service of slain University of Fort Hare law student, Nosicelo Mtebeni, in East London on Wednesday. Mtebeni’s dismembered body was discovered in Quigney, East London, last week.
Police discovered more of her body parts in the flat she shared with her alleged boyfriend, Alutha Pasile.
Pasile confessed to killing Mtebeni when he made a brief appearance at the East London Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
Pasile allegedly killed Mtebeni following an altercation in which he had pushed her against the wall. He then cut her body up using a saw and stuffed her body parts in a suitcase and plastic bags, before dumping them on a street corner.
At the memorial service, Nosicelo’s mother Ntombizandile and father Kholisile wiped tears from their eyes as people spoke fondly of their daughter.
An emotional Mtebeni family representative, Nomvula Gugushe, said:
Gugushe thanked the University of Fort Hare, the police and South Africans who have been shaken by Mtebeni’s gruesome murder.
“Through what happened to Nosicelo, it became immediately clear that this did not only affect the family, but the nation. We thank each one who has sent us messages of support since the first day we learnt of this incident,” said Gugushe.
Manamela said: “This is probably a wake-up call for us to ask ourselves questions. Are some of the things we do that place young men, and men in general, at a level of superiority in this country, precisely because of the culture of patriarchy, relevant?” he asked.
“Should we not be asking ourselves whether those cultural practices should continue as they are? The most basic of those is the exchange of a dowry. Whatever its origins, to an extent it has now meant that some men believe that, because they have paid lobola, they are entitled to do anything and everything to this woman, including to take their lives,” he said.
Professor Sakhela Buhlungu, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Fort Hare, echoed Manamela’s sentiments and said gender-based violence was a social system that emanated from age-old social structures that made it acceptable for men to dominate women and be violent towards them.
“The law must take its course and follow up with the perpetrator. But no number of insults [directed] at him are going to resolve the problem. Even if the courts send him away for 15, 30 years or whatever, the problem [violence against women] is going to remain,” he said.
Buhlungu said that, for as long as there were areas such as Quigney and Southernwood in East London, Sunnyside in Pretoria and Hillbrow in Johannesburg – and other drug-infested areas across the country where there is student accommodation – what happened to Mtebeni would be repeated.
Earlier this evening, VC Prof Sakhela Buhlungu met with the grief-stricken family of Nosicelo Mtebeni.— University_Fort Hare (@ufh1916) August 24, 2021
During the closed meeting, the VC expressed his condolences and also shared the university’s plans to honour the memory of Nosicelo. #JusticeForNosicelo pic.twitter.com/YHheuQMfAq
“Families send their children there, but there is nothing they can do to protect their children. There is nothing we [the university] can do to protect them. These are not individual issues, they are social issues and social structures,” said Buhlungu.
Advocate Andile Mini, president of the university’s convocation, said it had started initiatives to support the Mtebeni family and had raised R150 000.
Mtebeni’s mother is unemployed and her father is a street vendor in Matatiele, Eastern Cape, where Mtebeni, who wanted to be a Constitutional Court judge, came from.
He described men as being part of a gang whose last resort is that of satisfying their urge for violence.
“This fear of being attacked or being raped is part of the daily reality of women in South Africa and we, as men, do not know what it means to exist in the body of a woman in South Africa – and particularly the body of a black woman,” he said.
“Why is it that we have become the rapists and murderers of women in our society? At the heart of these are other, more fundamental questions. Are we saying it is okay for women and young girls in South Africa to live in constant fear? Are we saying it’s fine for moments like these to express our collective outrage and thereafter go on with our lives?”
Meanwhile, Pasile, who abandoned bail when he appeared briefly in court on a charge of murder, will appear in court again on September 28.
Last week, Police Minister Bheki Cele released the newest crime statistics, in which he revealed that 5 000 more people had been killed in South Africa in the first quarter of 2021/22 compared with the previous period.
“Between April 2021 and the end of June 2021, 5 760 people were killed in South Africa. This is 2 294 more people killed compared to the corresponding period in the previous financial year,” said Cele.