Fort Hare law student Picture: Facebook
Fort Hare law student Picture: Facebook

Nosicelo Mtebeni’s horror death: Warning signs your boyfriend could become violent or a killer

By IOL Reporter Time of article published Aug 31, 2021

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Cape Town – Nosicelo Mtebeni’s family will probably never know why her boyfriend, Aluta Pasile, felt he had to dismember her body, even though he claimed she allegedly cheated on him.

The 23-year-old Fort Hare law student’s body was stuffed in a suitcase that was discovered about 100 metres from her Quigney, East London, home. Her dismembered head and hands were found inside the house in plastic bags.

Her traumatised family will be ruminating over all the possible warning signs during the seven months they lived together. Affected university staff and students will also be asking themselves about what they could have done to possibly prevent this, with a team of seven psychologists, social workers and counsellors currently providing counselling.

According to criminologist Dr Guy Lamb, from the University of Stellenbosch, ’’a key risk factor in a relationship leading to violence is controlling behaviour and jealousy and a sense of ownership, and that if you don’t do what I say, then I will behave violently“.

Nosicelo Mtebeni’s sister, Nomvula Gugushe, lays a wreath where here body was found dumped in a suitcase in Quigney, East London. Picture: Supplied

This sense of ownership and jealousy could possibly have been a driving force behind Patile’s actions. The over-riding finding of the latest South African Gender Progress Study, which was released yesterday, is that patriarchy (a system in which men hold the power) is alive and well in all Southern African Development Community countries, and at all ages and levels of education.

The gender attitudes research shows that while 60% of women and men in the SADC region agree or strongly agree that “women and men should be treated the same”, 68% agree or strongly agree that “a woman should obey her husband”. And a shockingly 14% of men and women believe “if a man beats his wife, it shows that he loves her’’.

Universal signs of ’’owning’’ a partner, according to psychologists, include:

  • Not letting a partner talk to other men
  • Accusing a partner of cheating on them
  • Deciding who they will talk to and spend time with

During his appearance in an East London court last week, Pasile, 25 confessed to the murder and abandoned his bail bid and quest for legal representation.The ’’open and shut’’ case has been postponed to September 28 for further investigation.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Anelisa Ngcakani said a jealous Pasile had managed to steal her cellphone and unlocked it after guessing the password. In his confession, said he saw ’’love messages between her and another boyfriend’’, as well as a photo of the other man.

The following day, after confronting her about what he had found on her cellphone, they got into an argument, which became physical, Ngcakani said.

"He alleges that she bit him and scratched him all over the body and, in retaliation, he pushed her against the wall, resulting in her sustaining fatal injuries."

In an effort to cover up, Pasile bought tools to cut her up and dispose of the body, Ngcakani said.

’’It’s quite unusual for South Africa for men to be cutting up women’s bodies and behaving in such a way. While violent TV shows and games are a risk factor, some might cut off the hands and feet because it has some kind of cultural, traditional or belief system that leads them to perform such a crime,’’ Lamb said.

’’More often though when it comes to such gratuitous violence, it could be trauma-related. When bodies are cut up, it talks more to severe mental health issues.

’’Most intimate partner violence in South Africa mainly leads to women being assaulted or injured, with deaths being quite low. If you look at murders, in only about 10% of all murders in SA women are killed. Where women are killed it often is because someone is suffering from a severe mental illness, most likely being a psychopath or sociopath.

’’The biggest risk factor that came out of a study is that men who have committed intimate partner violence have experienced violence as a young boy in the family and community, reinforced by an exposure to alcohol and drugs. One of the key determinants is the norms about the use of violence and how to resolve conflict (with violence too easily considered an option).’’

Psychologists say friends and family who have lost someone in a domestic violence death often noticed a change in the victim’s personality, saying: “She was different around him”; “She couldn’t make any decisions,” “She became quiet and withdrawn.”

According to activist Melanie Curtis, there are other, not so obvious signs that you might be in a toxic relationship:

  • Passive aggressive behaviour – If you can feel something is wrong but when you ask, ’’What's going on?’’, the other person says, ’’Nothing’’, but then punishes you by giving you the silent treatment... that's passive aggression.
  • ’’Jokes’’ that aren't really jokes or emotional bullying – If your partner makes belittling comments about you but then claim they were ’’just joking’’, there's a problem.
  • Walking on eggshells – Are you afraid of going out with people after work because he might get jealous?
  • Constant exhaustion – Trying to predict someone else's behaviour (or mood changes) is tiring.

The first step needed, however, psychologists say, is being brave and honest enough to admit there is a problem. That aside, Nosicelo Mtebeni might still be alive if she had heeded some of the warning signs.


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