Botswana: Public inquiry on 'passion-killings'?

Statistics of so-called 'passion-killings' may not be available for comparative scientific analysis, but from regular media reports, there can be no doubt that Botswana is the front runner in this new wave of ghastly crime.
Michael Dingake responds to the rise in 'passion-killings' in the independent newspaper, Mmegi.
Let me make it clear from the outset, that I disagree with the murders, which go under the name passion, have anything to do with love if passion is synonymous with love. Love is the opposite of hate. The murders reported as “passion killings” come out as sadistic, gruesome, outrageous, fiendish and abominable. I doubt whether even enemy army soldiers, primed to kill their opposite numbers in the theatre of war, evince the premeditation, ruthlessness and the callous streak of the euphemistical “passion killers.” For lack of a more concise term, I would tentatively go along with those who name the murders, as femicide. The problem however with defining the murders as femicide, is excluding the suicide element which characterizes the killings. Taking our cue from suicide bombers, perhaps we should call them suicide femiciders or even better, suicide chauvinists.

The idea of an inquiry into these killings is not a bad one, except that, while we have the stark evidence of these crimes, we will not have the star witnesses - the culprits and their unwitting accomplices, to testify on the bizarre nature and peculiar motives that lead to these crimes. This incidentally, may limit the authenticity of expert opinions that may be submitted to grapple with the motives and the search for solutions in the fora of public inquiry.

However, those to be entrusted with presiding over the inquiry, might do well to follow objective leads. One of these leads is the impact of the developing culture of gender equality. The pattern of the killings reflects a blatant cultural tendency of machismo and chauvinism, imaginable. The males alone commit these heinous acts. The victims are invariably female. It implies that the killings are indisputably sexist in character.

Male Batswana appear to be determined to deny their female counterparts, the right of freedom to choose when to love, how to love and when to stop loving. The stories relating the killings are stories of jilted lovers or unrequited love. One begins to wonder whether male Batswana do not jilt their lovers. If they do, why are women/girls not killing their male counterparts?

The tentative conclusion, then appears to be that the newfangled gender equality is anathema to male Batswana. Gender equality is being rammed down the male throats, according to the men. One can sense the simmering antipathy. The killings must be read as emphatic rejection of equality policies and those who advocate them. The challenge, before the policymakers and advocates now, is to embark on a re-orientation programme for Batswana males in particular, towards non-sexism and how this, in the long term will empower them, instead of emasculating them, as they subconsciously fear.

They should be taught, that head of the family, community/political leader or company director are roles that can be modernised, enriched, compacted and humanised by sharing them across the gender spectrum. Both sexes need to be educated on the mutual benefit of the new culture of gender equality. The re-orientation must not neglect the womenfolk. We still have pockets of women who believe, male domination is divine, ordained and tradition entrenched and should be maintained!

The other factor, basic to the spate of killings, is rapid social change in the process of our development. Communication technology, improved mode of transportation and the whole globalisation caboodle, has put our culture under stress. Whether we know it or not, we are undergoing a seismic social upheaval, which imposes upon us, a dubious cultural identity. Globalisation has left us socially and psychologically mangled.

Previously a cohesive community, made so by the normative social structure of the extended family, which imposed moral and social responsibility on community relations that gave us resilience, has all but dissipated. Today our society is riddled with glaring disparities: education, income, wealth, consumption and social status. The result is polarisation and crime. Something unknown or vaguely remembered in our tradition. Crime statistics are chilling. If anybody wants to appreciate why I often emphasize the implausibility of Vision 2016, look at the national crime statistics. Look at them in the light of what the Vision envisages: “The problem of crime can only be solved via a broad perspective, and by strengthening the capacity to contain it. A first priority is to reduce the motivation to commit crimes through reducing poverty, creating employment opportunities and improving recreational facilities, particularly for young people.”

How does all this idealism square up to practice of public authorities on the ground? Violent crimes are skyrocketing: Rape, murder, common assault, armed robbery and now these so-called “passion killings.” A thread of social discontent is discernable. It runs deep through our society: Schools, family, industry, the judiciary, the public service and Parliament. I am not a pessimist, but the discontent is so palpable, it is reaching crisis proportions. It manifests itself more menacingly in the various crimes we have mentioned above. Crime is the ominous barometer of social instability.

There is an underlying social disaffection. We shall do well not to deny it, despite our innate denial syndrome, we often resort to, when challenges loom. In examining the causes of the current come, we must examine not only how they manifest themselves, but the milieu in which they manifest themselves. The causes that cause the general violent crime climate, are the same causes that beget the prevailing jinxed suicides.

We are a society undergoing an unprecedented politico-psycho-socio-economical turmoil. The solution to the “passion killings” must be found within the standard framework that should apply to all the other areas of social disaffection. We need a holistic approach to the problem of these sinister killings.

A wholesale therapeutic treatment is what the doctor ought to prescribe, to rid our society, of this dreadful disease which side by side with the current pandemics is gnawing at our body, mind and soul.

Originally published on 17 January 2006
© Mmegi