On Monday, the trial of yet another fallen sports hero began. Oscar Pistorius joins the throng of idolised sportsmen, such as Lance Armstrong and Hansie Cronje that have fallen from the pedestals that we’ve placed them on. Some people’s reaction after the news of Armstrong and Cronje was “they are human after all”. But this isn’t just match fixing and now, taking illegal substances to get ahead doesn’t seem all that bad. Those sport stars harmed themselves while Oscar’s actions were fatal and leave feelings of much more that mere disappointment. There is sadness and heartache as we remember that an unfinished life has been taken away.
The trial that has been dubbed the biggest in South African history has overshadowed all other news. All of a sudden no one cares that elections are on the way and that a memorial service was held for our former president Nelson Mandela. The interest of South Africa (and the world) is on the fate of a golden boy who killed a girl with golden locks. We all want to know what happened that night. Was it an accident or was it a planned murder?
It has the makings of a TV drama and soon someone somewhere will write a book or make a movie. But the trial which will reveal Pistorius’ fate also brings to the surface underlying issues that face South Africans on the daily.
South Africans live in fear that they will be killed – some feel that they are not safe even in the comfort of their own home. Stories of break-ins and murders just add to the fear that has now become paranoia. When we go to bed, will someone break the lock to my house and kill us? We quickly get out of bed to check if the door is locked and all alarms are engaged. What if we want to make a late night cup of hot chocolate or use the toilet like the defence claims happened in this case? Oscar Pistorius allegedly thought a black man was waiting behind a locked toilet door. He claims it was a case of ‘shoot him before he shoots me’. The irony is that the very metal object that was there for protection ended up doing the opposite as it was infact Reeva on the other side of the door. So if Oscar feared black on white violence is this crime also highlighting a racial issue?
The first witness Michelle Burger claims she heard screams of women and a man followed by gunshots. She and her husband thought that the house was being burgled, but in the South Africa we live in domestic violence was actually more likely.
Women abuse remains a huge problem in the country. The brutal killings of children in Delft and the rape of Anene Booysen and many others remain fresh in our minds. This trial is just another reminder that scars, bruises and death is often at the hands of a supposed ‘lover’. During the court case we are bound to hear theories of a lover’s quarrel that ended badly. There are also claims that Reeva may have been having an affair which sent Oscar into a fit of jealous rage.
The post-mortem will reveal whether Reeva had sex and with whom. It will also reveal if she urinated (this will strengthen Oscars story). All this intimate information made public, while people in South Africa tweet like desktop jury members- how shameless our lives have become.
The defence will argue that Oscar didn’t mean to shoot Reeva – she like many women was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the fact remains that he did mean to shoot – (the imaginary black man that broke in to his house remember?)
Oscar’s fears of an intruder may have been mere paranoia. He lives in a complex of high security with no previous history of crime. Statistics show that only 1.8 percent of the total murders in South Africa from 1994 – 2012 were white people. That is 6498 people(let’s not count the amount of coloured and black people). Sixty five percent of this was as a result of an argument between lovers that turned deadly- this is what the State strongly believes happened on the 14th of February 2013.
The ultimate question is: was it rage or fear that led to the end of Reeva’s life? Whatever the judge decides this will undoubtedly be the most important race of Oscar’s life.
Images sourced from SkyNews and Sportsillustrated.cnn.com