Ubuntu in Germany Column

Oscar is guilty of murder and so a worldwide chapter closes

(Editor: Alex Smit-Stachowski is a South African journalist and speaking in her column about the country of her birth. She had lived in Krefeld, in North Rhine-Westphalia/ Germany).

The Oscar Pistorius trial has been intertwined in my life since it began – I posted on Facebook on Valentine’s Day 2013 saying crime drove him to it (not knowing the whole story), discussed it with colleagues while watching the trial live from a work laptop in Germany and listened to the first verdict while packing for South Africa. Now I am working in Johannesburg as the second verdict delivers true justice. Small world…

Oscar guilty

© Oscar Pistorius now found guilty of murder, as seen from South Africa.

I remember the anger and outrage I felt when I saw the Afrikaans newspaper report saying the Olympian sportsman had shot his girlfriend dead on Valentine’s Day, believing she was a robber, and immediately posted something along the lines of “See, this is how bad crime has gotten – this star was so afraid he slept with a gun and shot first.” As I read other coverage, I soon deleted my post and within the day was done, was wondering along with others, why this star killed his lover on the most romantic day in the calendar.

German media picked up on the story immediately; TV news broadcast it in shock, remarking that it read like a movie script. I was working for a German marketing firm and our foreign translators and I spent coffee breaks speculating during the trial, which was broadcast live, unheard of in Germany, if he would get away with it. My colleagues were women – the Europeans felt he would be sentenced fairly and the people born outside of Europe, wisely and with bitter experience, muttered that he was a famous white guy and would not see a harsh sentence.

A few months later, I was packing up my home to emigrate back to South Africa and had the trial playing as a soundtrack to my packing cardboard boxes while the lawyers played legal tennis and the Steenkamp family sat, stony-faced surrounded by the kind ladies of the ANC Women’s League. It was then that judgement was passed – he was not guilty of murder and after 353 days in prison, Pistorius was free and out on bail.

I have been living in South Africa for the past year and now five Court of Appeal judges overturned the original verdict and found him guilty of murder. My new work colleagues feel justice has been served, particularly as today is part of The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign. This is a good day for South Africa.

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