Opinionista Gushwell Brooks 18 March 2015

Why does it only matter when the famous die?

It is tragic that a knife through the heart ended the life of Nkululeko ‘Flabba’ Habedi at his home in Alexandra, in the early hours of Monday morning, the 9 March 2015. Any life, cut short in such an apparently brutal way, is horrific. However, deaths like these occur every single day in South Africa and as is suspected in this case, a quarrel that turned violent is usually at the centre of intimate partner homicide.

The twist in the tale in this instance is that it is usually the woman that succumbs to intimate partner homicide. Flabba, the guy in this relationship, bled out as Tshepang, his younger brother, and his cousin Luyanda tried in vain to resuscitate him. The social media storm that raged on the morning of his death raised a silent, out-of-touch, patriarchal murmur. “This thing of women’s violence against men really needs to be dealt with,” one social media post read. Another published a photo of Sindisiwe Manqele, Flabba’s girlfriend and sole suspect in the murder case, with the caption, “Here’s the Witch! She must rot in jail!”

Whether she in fact plunged the knife into his heart is not in dispute, she stabbed him, she killed him. But whether she committed murder – the unlawful killing of another human being – is to be determined by the court. Her being granted R10,000 bail and the Magistrate’s accompanying words make it clear that her killing of Flabba, may have been legally protected. In other words the court would have to determine whether her defence of private defence (self-defence) is valid, therefore exonerating her of Flabba’s murder. As interesting as this legal question is, the societal response is even more intriguing and worth interrogation.

An undercurrent of men feeling victimised is very apparent. Raise a debate related to gender and society’s unfair treatment of women and you will have men pointing out how they are tired of being blamed for women’s woes; how women wear short skirts, stay out late at night, get drunk, provoke men to the point of violence, fail to use contraceptives and trap us with babies. You will inevitably hear how men also get raped, beaten and killed by their partners and that gender based violence does not only affect women. Anyone with more than two brain cells would assume and take it for granted that a man somewhere in the world is abused by his intimate partner, including by partners of the female variety, that he may relent to sex without real consent or that he puts up with her abuse because of the children or her financial support.

The fact however, globally and here locally, is that men are the perpetrators, rather than the victims, in the vast majority of instances. We are therefore not the vulnerable group, a group that requires special laws, protections and policies to be put in place to see the realisation of our equal rights. We tend to have the home ground advantage as a given.

This does not necessarily mean that Flabba could not have been a victim at the hands of Manqele, that his death at the hands of Manqele is construed as murder and subsequently unlawful; she has a case to answer to. The issue is our exaggerated sense of an ‘injury to one is an injury to all’. It trivialises the real plight of abused women, in essence dismissing it as an issue that has been exaggerated by the ‘liberal media’ and ‘bitchy women’s groups’. It says there is nothing special or urgent about abuse against women, after all we are all victims and nobody makes a fuss for us men. As interested as these men are in men’s rights, they remain silent but for when it involves someone famous.

The social media outrage also raises further, interesting questions about societal attitudes. Whatever happened to the notion of the due process of a trial in determining guilt? What made Manqele a witch, particularly since the author of the post in all likelihood never met her to make such a scathing judgement? What fuelled this anger at Flabba’s passing, the fact that he was a great guy, or the fact that he was a revered and famous hip hop artist?

As for the 38-year-old musician’s personality, that I cannot vouch for; this proves to be true for the vast majority of people that poured their hearts at his passing via the internet. The problem is that people chose a side without knowing what the truth is and it is irresponsible to castigate the accused without actually knowing what happened on that fateful morning. Reports that the two had a lover’s quarrel in itself is insufficient evidence of the circumstances leading up to the death and even for those that witnessed the quarrel. They would most likely be unable to say what happened. In fact the deceased’s brother, who lives in the same home, said he heard nothing up until he discovered his brother’s stabbed, dying body. So who but Manqele can give us a full account of events?

Judgement was passed, the murderous Jezebel had robbed us of a favoured star and her face needed to be shared via a public, digital forum as we bayed for her blood. Despite the fact that it has been reported that Manqele tried to slit her own wrists with a broken bottle, the Magistrate who granted bail did so saying that the accused’s wounds were too extensive for them all to be self inflicted. According to Manqele’s affidavit there was imminent danger to her life and she killed the musician in self-defence. Her affidavit states, “I had been brutally attacked by the deceased on the day of his death. I sustained injuries on my body.” According to Dr Mike Lukhozi, a medical practitioner specialising in clinical forensic medicine, Manqele’s injuries included multiple soft tissue injuries due to a combination of blunt and sharp trauma as well as visible injuries to her head and neck, upper and lower limbs as well as the abdominal wall and chest.

It should therefore be obvious that a court, through its careful scrutiny of the facts and the law, should come to the correct conclusion as to what happened beyond a reasonable doubt on the morning in question. The complexity of private defence, unanswered questions as to what led to the killing and the accused’s injuries means that Flabba’s friend’s disappointed outburst at Manqele being granted bail, cannot be ascribed to anything else but emotion: “She must go commit suicide. She’s a murderer.” At least this anonymous friend had an emotional connection to the deceased, but what about the rest of us?

If the Pistorius case and the unwarranted blind support he received during the trial, despite him being found guilty of the negligent killing of Reeva Steenkamp proved anything, it proved that we hold the rich and famous to a different moral code. They entertain and inspire us and the usual suspicion we would have if ‘Joe Public’ were involved, or the care we would exercise before we comment, gives way to emotional outbursts. Just ask Kenny Kunene as Pistorius was granted bail. We deify these members of high society, failing to realise that they are equally prone to committing some of the worst wrongs human beings can commit.

Manqele returns to court soon and if the State believes that it has a strong case, a trial date should be set. As would be standard for any member of the public, let the enquiry begin and let the court tell us what happened. DM

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