And the Oscar goes to….
(Editor: Alex Smit-Stachowski is speaking in her column about life as a South African now living in Germany. The South African journalist lives in Krefeld, in North Rhine-Westphalia/ Germany).
Valentine’s Day in 2013 dawned with the shocking news that the lithe, disabled sportsman, Oscar Pistorius had shot his blonde model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp dead while claiming he thought she was a robber out to hurt him. I wrote about the German media coverage at the time – now a year later, Europeans and ex-pats are glued to their TV sets or radios to keep up with the live trial.
I am working for a German firm peppered with many nationalities, mostly women who are equally compelled to keep up with the ongoing Oscar trial. It is quite interesting to hear how the trial is being perceived here in Europe and what the impressions of South Africans are, that are being created by these well-off white men who grab their guns if they feel endangered.
Born and bred in South Africa, when I initially heard the news on Facebook from Beeld newspaper – I initially instantly agreed – it was crime! “How bad has it gotten in South Africa – that a famous sports man is forced to sleep with his weapon and accidentally kills his beloved, beautiful girlfriend?” I thought. I posted on Facebook, how crime must be tackled – that a shocking incident like this will highlight the perils of constant crime and perhaps force an overall change at government level to tackle the various forms of crime, effectively.
Within hours it dawned, he had been overheard arguing with his girlfriend, his home was in a secure complex, he had a history of grabbing his weapon and soon I thought – perhaps Oscar did not believe she was a robber. As the trial unfolds, many inconsistencies have arisen. What is glaringly apparent is a young white man whose family embraced gun culture and who resisted black policemen as he felt they did not respect him – even when he openly broke the law. He never called the police for any of the alleged incidents of crime against him and was unapologetic about his heavy-duty ammunition and weapons, feeling they were all necessary.
So our team of European professionals huddle whenever I go downstairs to talk to them. “What is the latest in the Oscar trial??” They know I am equally fixated as they are and as a South African with connections in the media, I often have insider information that not everyone will have.
The French woman believes Oscar will be jailed. She has a house in Johannesburg and believes in an ideal dream of justice. The Spanish older dame thinks his disability and the fact that he is a white male means that he will get away with it, without any repercussions. Our Portuguese representative scoffs loudly when I recount Oscar’s testimony. She is convinced he did it on purpose and is very sympathetic towards the Steenkamps but is of the opinion – he will let off without jail time.
Asked for my opinion, I would agree that I believe he will not serve time – I hope justice is served and that the true story emerges. It is certainly an interesting radio story to listen to while working.
The German press is granting it a fair amount of coverage – he gets into the main news and the boulevard print media splashes pictures of the distraught family of Reeva and the supportive family of Oscar. Those Germans who are following the case are shocked by the idea of a well-to-do man shooting his girlfriend dead. It is inconceivable for the average German to grab a weapon when suspecting a burglar. They would call the police. They certainly would have fled with their partners.
The impression left is of a South Africa, still devastated by the effects of continuous crime and that race and money will get you off a long-term jail sentence. Crime is still an issue in this lovely country and is a very topical issue for the upcoming election.