The Oscar Pistorius Trial-observations from an outsider.
What happened on Valentine night?
From worldwide hero to fallen star. He made the front page of Time magazine twice. Once as an Olympic champion who overcame his disability to win gold in the Olympics for disabled athletes and even qualified for the normal Olympics. A name on every follower of athletics and many others lips. A second time as someone who shot his girlfriend. In February last year came the shocking news that this fearless competitor had shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine Day. His defence was that in a state of panic he mistook her for an intruder and shot her through the locked bathroom door. A claim that most clear thinking people find extremely difficult to believe.
As a different picture of this athlete started to become obvious he seemed to be a person with many flaws. Breaking the law as a speed freak in his high powered car, firing a revolver in a restaurant and being involved in a motor boat accident were some of the incidents that came to light. Sometimes friends took the blame for his reckless behaviour.
Now he sits in the Pretoria High Court charged with premeditated murder and several other gun related charges. It has been called the trial of the century, surely a rather dramatic claim. At the same time there seems to be unprecedented worldwide media interest. This is not a classical murder mystery of “who done it”, but rather a mystery as to “why he done it!”
As the evidence was lead in the court a couple of things have become apparent even to us lay people:
1. Can this case be proved?
Firstly this is going to be a difficult case to prove as the other person who was present during this horror shooting cannot testify. The best evidence in court seems to be the bathroom door. Secondly the police investigation team were obviously pretty useless in gathering evidence but adept at stealing one of Oscar’s watch collection. This gave the defence team the opportunity to have a couple of field days discrediting any evidence they may have actually collected. Fourthly the evidence from witnesses seems to contradict the claims that Oscar made.
When he was phoned by the security guard on duty after the shots had been fired and asked if everything was okay he replied, “Everything is fine!” It is difficult to reconcile this with the fact that he had just shot Reeva, broken the door down with a cricket bat and carried the dead woman down the stairs. Perhaps he was looking for someone to take the blame.
2. Most arm chair judges have already decided what happened.
Most people have made up their mind about what probably happened on that terrible day in February last year. The question that however is left hanging in the mind of the court is “why did he do it?” Once all the evidence has been led judgement will be made and Oscar will have to face up to that judgement. There will probably be appeals before the dust finally settles on this case. Probably the truth of that horror shooting will never come out. One thing however is certain, the life of a hero has come crashing down. It is difficult to imagine how Oscar will ever be able to restore his image of the wonder boy who overcame his disability. This may be a bigger disability to deal with than his previous one.
3. The gun issue in South Africa.
It also opens the debate as to the gun issue. Why was an ordinary citizen in possession of so many weapons and the type of bullets that killed Reeva?
4. The Marikana Mine disaster.
It is interesting that at the same time in South Africa another court is sitting to determine what happened at the Marikana mine in the North West Province, also last year. There police,like Oscar,felt that their lives were under threat. This case is not receiving nearly the same attention locally or internationally that the Oscar Pistorius case is. But then after all these were just ordinary people involved here!
The so called Maricana Masacre took place last year when thirty protesting miners were shot and killed by police. When the protest march took place emotions were already running high as in the preceding days ten people died,including police and security guards. Some of the miners had taken a muti (medicine) sold to them by a Sangoma who told them they would be immune to bullets. The miners were carrying pangas and traditional weapons, spears and knives. The police claim they were fired on before they opened fire. Some of the miners were shot in the back.
5. The South African Police on trial.
Finally it seems as if the South African Police Force should do some serious soul searching and put its house in order. If law and order is to become the order of the day in South Africa then the SA Police should take a serious look at some issues that have become apparent from these two cases.
It makes you think, doesn't it?