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How we harbour perpetrators of domestic violence

Sandile Mantsoe is now a convicted murderer that’ll deservedly serve 32 years imprisonment, pending his appeal process. We wish for a similar court outcome for the lunatic who confessed on social media to have killed his girlfriend at the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) student residence in Durban earlier this week.

However, much as these sentences ought to also somewhat serve as deterrents to domestic violence beyond just holding the perpetrators accountable, our country still tops the world in femicide rate. So much so that our femicide rate is five times more than the global rate. One woman is killed every 8th hour in South Africa by a man she’s intimately involved with.

Now, think about that for a moment. Effectively, in South Africa, a woman is much safer sleeping with her house doors unlocked than being killed in a relationship by the very man she shares a bed with.

Today, three women, whom we’ll never find out about, will die at the hands of their lovers. The MUT student that was killed by her boyfriend in Durban was just one of three. The other two were not reported in the media. We will never hear of them. However, their families know. Their boyfriends or husbands, who are freely roaming our streets and are audaciously trying to attract other women in the name of love, also know. Tomorrow three others will be killed in cold blood and, if you’re not involved, you will hear nothing of it. Same thing will happen the day after, and so on.

It is common knowledge that Black African women from rural areas, in lower income families, are at the greatest risk of falling victim to intimate partner violence.

Pairing South Africa’s sky-high femicide figures with the country’s ignoble reputation as the rape capital of the world raises the question about government’s response to this urgent national crisis.

In 1998, the Domestic Violence Act was promulgated. It not only recognises physical violence as a form of domestic violence but also psychological, emotional and verbal abuse. The act creates a protection tool for victims of abuse in the form of the protection order, granted by a judge. If the abuser violates the order, the police are obliged to immediately arrest that person. Additionally, the government has tabled the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, established the National Council Against Gender Based Violence and opened Thuthuzela Care Centres, led by the NPA’s Sexual Offences Unit. These are meant to provide help and services to women and children who have experienced sexual or other violence.

These are all great interventions, but what is the reality on the ground?

  • Lack of proper policing and investigation of domestic abuse and violence. There is a continuing lack of awareness of gender based motivations for the murder of women among police, and failure to prioritise these cases.
  • Inadequate education of police in matters of domestic violence. Many women are still shamed and blamed for domestic violence against them. In fact, many victims would rather not report the violent crimes because police would ask them questions that seek to implicate them on the very crimes.
  • The most dangerous moment for a woman trapped in a violent relationship is when she leaves the partner. Consequently, many women die in silence.
  • The feeling of helplessness by abused women, and fear for the future.

However, much more than government, the femicide rate in our country raises much more serious questions about us, the family, community and friends.

Sandile Mantsoe isn’t just a face on our television screens, he continues to exist in our homes and community. He’s your Facebook friend and seats next to you at church as a fellow parishioner.

His father and uncle in the rural areas have multiplied themselves to the urban Sandile Mantsoes that are now found in the urban and peri-urban areas. You now seat next to him in the lecture hall, and is your colleague at work. Your paths cross every day.

He’s the guy that talks down to women, and one who thinks he has the right to pat a work colleague on her butt. He’s the boss that often passes sexist snides during meetings, and the one that will promote or employ women for sexual favours. He’s the guy that sees women as nothing more than sex objects.

Sandile Mantsoe lives next door your house. He’s your father, brother, uncle, cousin, friend and your friend’s boyfriend. To many, he’s your boyfriend and husband. You share a bed with him, for the most part of your relationship. He’s a dangerous man that accounts to no one but himself.

He’s that serial cheater who gets mad with rage when he’s held accountable by his girlfriend. He’s the guy in your life that keeps numbing you with, “baby it will never happen again…you know I love you”.

What are you going to do about that Sandile Mantsoe, in your life? He keeps getting away with murder, and silently so.

Because somehow and in one way or the other, he needs to know that if he’s going to abuse you or any woman in your circle, he only has one chance to do it – nothing more. He needs to know that you are somebody’s daughter, sister, mom and friend.

Abuse, emotional or physical, isn’t something to be tolerated. It doesn’t matter how much you claim to love one another.

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