/ 10 February 2023

Editorial | Ntokozo Xaba: There’s nowhere to hide for black women in a country designed to suppress

Ntokozo Xaba
Ntokozo Xaba was found dead with multiple stab wounds at her off-campus residence in Pretoria Gardens on 2 February, after her friends could not reach her over the phone.(Instagram/@ntokozoxaba_)

Ntokozo Xaba (23) is just another name, much like Uyinene Mrwetyana. 

Just another woman whose life has been cut short, allegedly at the hands of her partner. Her tale is sadly a very common tale for a South African demographic, the black women, who outside of fearing for their lives in the face of increasingly violent men, carry the biggest burdens of the country’s socioeconomic decay — they are the most unemployed and the poorest in the country. That’s not to say these murders are reserved for this segment of the population. We are closing in on Valentine’s Day and the 10-year anniversary of the murder of Reeva Steenkamp.

This week, Xaba’s ex-boyfriend was charged with defeating the ends of justice and murder after he allegedly stabbed her to death. If you’ve forgotten the name Uyinene, she was a student at the University of Cape Town who was raped and murdered in the suburb of Claremont, Cape Town almost four years ago.

Their names will soon start to fade in our minds as the body count continues to grow, by the tune of about seven women a day in this country. That’s more than 2 500 bereaved mothers.

These are daughters and grandmothers who find themselves at the bottom of the boots of their partners, or of strangers who through patriarchal indoctrination believe they own them.

Fear is the norm for women, who live in our big cities, towns and villages. But if sleeping with a possible enemy were not bad enough, in Johannesburg, where we live through almost 12 hours of daily load -shedding, the streets are providing further layers of darkness for strangers to hide in.

For a single woman living and working in these dark and busy streets, your body is a commodity and freedom is a phenomenon you can only wish to know. If you aren’t living at the mercy of a potential murderer like Karabo Mokoena did, you’re dodging cat calls from strangers and asking a male friend to accompany you to the mall because you fear being kidnapped. 

Mokoena’s ex-boyfriend was convicted of her murder in 2018 after her burnt remains were found buried in a shallow grave in an open field. That’s the value of a woman’s life in this country. Roughly 9 516 rapes were reported to the police between April and June 2022 and of that number only 286 convictions were made. Not a very promising figure for women brave enough to speak out. 

Falling in love is a death sentence and romance is being stabbed to death, remains dismembered and stuffed into a suitcase left on the street. That was Nosicelo Mtebeni’s reality. Her ex-boyfriend Alutha Pasile confessed to her murder in 2021 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. She was only 23 years old. 

Consider yourself lucky as a woman if you make it home safely today but don’t hold your breath. Tomorrow is another day.