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Hysteria won’t help

27 February 2014
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NAMIBIANS normally hold fairly moderate views and choose their words carefully when engaged in public discourse. However, the recent epidemic of so-called passion killings seems to have thrown all that overboard.

Founding President Sam Nujoma suggests that we should bury those guilty of perpetrating violence against women alive or mobilise the army to deal with them.

Deputy Chairperson of the National Council Margaret Mensah-Williams has called on President Hifikepunye Pohamba to declare a state of emergency to deal with the crisis.

President Pohamba himself proposes that we show no mercy in rooting out the evil of passion killings from our society.

He went further by declaring 6 March 2014 a national day of prayer, no doubt inspired by Mensah-Williams, who has repeatedly called for prayer as a solution.

Secretary of the Swapo Youth League Elijah Ngurare says we must kill people who commit such crimes.

One can only describe some of the comments we have heard in recent days as extreme, injudicious and sometimes even hysterical.

The brutal manner as well as the frequency with which men kill their female partners has understandably shocked and dismayed all of us.

However, one wonders how constructive some of the proposals made by our politicians are and whether they offer real, practical and workable solutions.

The fact is that Namibia is a society in transition, which brings with it a certain amount of upheaval and social dislocation.

Our society has embarked on an inevitable and unstoppable path of transition from a traditional African society to a more modern, cosmopolitan and westernised society.

The customs, cultural norms and social sanctions that regulated personal conduct in a traditional society have largely fallen away.

At the same time, our society has not reached the level of emancipation where we accept women as fully-fledged, free and equal human beings in society.

In this journey of transition, some men have clearly lost their way, to the extent that they have even lost their souls.

As we have pointed out before, the term ‘passion killings’ is a misnomer and really only serves to mislead.

The evidence in many cases suggests that the perpetrators did not carry out the crimes in the heat of passion.

They instead carefully planned the murders in a cold and calculating fashion, and in a manner intended to degrade and inflict the maximum degree of humiliation on the victim.

The root of the problem lies in the fact that men in our society still regard women as property, and as mere chattels.

If a farmer has a temperamental and unruly cow, he feels he has the perfect right to slaughter the cow.

The tragedy of our society is that many men still regard women as no better than domestic farm animals.

The problem with some of the extreme solutions our politicians have proposed is that they suggest that the State and society cannot deal with this problem through normal means.

They give the impression that we have already exhausted all normal and reasonable measures to deal with the problem. However, we are far from having reached that stage.

In and of itself, there is nothing wrong in suggesting that the nation should pray. Prayer offers solace in troubled times.

What is worrying is that by turning to prayer Government seems to have acknowledged its own impotence in dealing with this problem, and has admitted defeat and surrendered.

This sends the wrong message.

President Pohamba seems to be saying that the temporal powers of the State have failed and that we now have to rely on the spiritual powers of priests, bishops and God.

What makes this wrong is that this country is no way near having exhausted all the avenues for policy intervention, law enforcement, judicial sanction or education, for that matter.

The only sensible suggestion seems to have come from Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Rosalia Nghidinwa.

She concedes that many of the programmes her ministry introduced to combat gender-based violence have failed.

Nghidinwa however, promised aggressive media campaigns, using radio, newspapers, television and other media tools, to get the message across. In the end that might offer the only solution we can hope for, together with better law enforcement and stiffer prison sentences.

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WINDHOEK OBSERVER

The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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