SA Women: An endangered species?

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Muzzle and front sight of a 9mm pistol

The conversation of femicide in South Africa is more relevant than ever. The communities of Evander and surrounds are rattled the news of a murder-suicide that took place so close to home. A man shooting his wife, child and himself is the stuff of movies… Right?
Yet, at about 07:30 on Thursday, 3 May 2018, police on duty received a call from neighbours of a family of three regarding a possible suicide at Leopard Tree Place, an apartment complex in the sleepy town of Evander.
On arrival, police found the flat locked, with no one responding to their calling out and knocking. Sensing an eerie problem and a matter of urgency, they climbed up a ladder, entering the unit through its top window.
Police were met with the gorey scene of an African woman lying on a bed, a man slumped over her, and a baby girl lying lifeless beside her. All three family members were shot and certified dead by paramedics on the scene. A firearm registered in the name of Wonder Nkosi, aged 31, was lying on the floor next to the man, who police have identified as the suspect.
It is alleged that the man shot his wife and child, and then himself with a 9mm pistol. The woman was shot in the neck at close range, the baby was shot in the chest at close range and it is believed that the suspect then shot himself in the head. Three cartridges were found on the scene.
This news arrived on the same day that Sandile Mantsoe, who coincedentally grew up in eMbalenhle and went to school in Secunda, was sentenced to an effective 32 years in prison by the South Gauteng High Court for the assault, murder and burning of the body of Karabo Mokoena, a woman he was in a romantic relationship with.
In the same week, Zolile Khumalo, a first-year student at Mangosuthu University of Technology, was allegedly shot dead by an ex-student at a student residence in Durban. Reports say 21-year-old Khumalo tried to break up with the ex-boyfriend, and when she was killed, she had been avoiding him for two weeks.
We needn’t go back to mention the names of Reeva Steenkamp or Amanda Tweyi because the matter is quite clear: South African women are killed by their partners at an alarming rate.
Intimate femicide is defined as the murder of women by their “current or ex-husband or boyfriend, same-sex partner or a rejected would-be lover”. In South Africa, the femicide rate is 5 times higher than the global rate, with one woman being murdered every 4 hours, and one every 8 hours by an intimate partner. That’s 8 femicides a day, and half in the bounds of romantic relationships.
These statistics come from autopsy data from a 2009 study (by researchers from the South African Medical Research Council’s Gender and Health Research Unit) of women aged 14 years and older from mortuaries across the country, along with interviews with police investigators to verify the cause of death and identify relationships with perpetrators.
While social media floods with condolences and heartbreak over this week’s devastating incident in Evander, being a woman looks to be more and more of an extreme sport in South Africa. Murder is no longer a violation that is only expected from a stranger in a dark alley, but a very real occurrence in the homes and arms that women expect safety and protection from.
Considering the facts and stats, are South African women our newest endangered species? – Rori Rathebe

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