Why do some men murder their partners?
by Mpho Raphata
Since the news of Karabo Mokoena’s brutal murder, I have been pre-occupied with trying to understand why she was so brutally killed. I asked myself where things between her and her boyfriend went wrong.
I asked myself what right the man, said to be her boyfriend thought he had, to decide whether she lives or not. Over the past few days attempting to digest the news, I have been unable to come to a conclusion that explains or justifies what happened.
Until yesterday I really was left empty without answers. It was only after an interview I heard on the radio that it all made sense to me. Kaya FM Breakfast show host David O Sullivan had a conversation with Mmatshilo Motsei – Founder of Afrika Ikalafe and Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training. She spoke about the work she does with men who abuse and rape women.
Motsei spoke of how patriarchy affects men and not just women. She described how boy children are born into a society where they are not allowed to feel. Her exact words were that boys are “numbed”. She went on to say that we have been conditioned to accept the imbalance between men and women.
What was startling to me was when she said: “patriarchy requires men to kill themselves before they can kill women. If you look at the brutality you must have died yourself first, to kill someone like that.” That for me was the light bulb moment. It became clear to me that no person can kill like the way Karabo Mokoena was killed and still have emotions and a conscience.
I started to understand more of the psyche of the men who kill in that way. However, even with this information one cannot help but need more to explain what is seemingly becoming more prevalent in our society.
Karabo Mokoena was killed and burned by necklacing. Her body, then dumped by a man who was meant to love her.. A husband and wife team of professors Manchester, Britain found that many women are murdered by jealous, possessive, and controlling men. They also found that the ideas of entitlement bound up in masculinity are, in some cases, deadly.
Their research also revealed that intimate partner murders were some of the most intentional killers they saw. These men had premeditated their actions. It also showed that many had problematic child and adulthoods, many had alcohol problems and were unemployed. One should take into account though that the study also showed that there was a portiion of men who had participated in violent crimes against their partners who did not have any convictions or alcohol issues, and were regularly employed.
This then brings me to my next thought; these murders cannot be understood in terms of loss of control or insanity. They are planned, as what some researchers see as an act of profound despair that is ready to destroy the other even if this means destroying oneself.
Murder is then done out of weakness and not out of strength. The extreme dependence, which confines the man to a position of weakness, is said then to be used as a self-defence claim with which to supposedly “explain” the murder. In this case, desperation bestows power.
The deeper the desperation is, the stronger the power it engenders.
From this perspective, the ultimate exercise of force—murder—is merely an expression of complete weakness and loss.
It is clear that too many women are being murdered by their partners. In South Africa there are no recent statistics that give insight into why men kill their partners.
Case that stand out are that of police constable Francis Rasuge who was murdered by her boyfriend William Nkuna who is serving time for her murder. Former JoziFM DJ Donald Sebolai is also serving time for murdering his girlfriend Dolly Tshabalala. Oscar Pistorius is under house arrest for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The list of names is growing. And we now call for the South African Police service to recognise these crimes, not just as murder, but as a growing disturbance of femicide.
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