As the rest of the world settles back to watch what they’re calling the South African version of the OJ Simpson trial, a growing number of South Africans have finally had enough of the accusations, presumptions and poor-taste jokes that South Africans themselves have been sharing since the tragic news that Oscar Pistorius’ girlfriend was shot dead on Valentine’s Day.
The letter which has so far caused the biggest stir has been that which was written by Nilea Swanepoel, an administrator of the Praat Afrikaans Facebook page. (Her opinions are personal and not necessarily those of Praat Afrikaans.)
She wrote a piece entitled “Oscar; Hoekom?” which has been translated into English by Deidre Kilian. The following is the translation:
I don’t really understand why, but the Oscar Pistorius case really disturbs me.. Disturb isn’t really the right word.. More like emotionally draining.
I tried to look at it from an objective angle, and realise that it’s not really one specific facet of the horrific tale that’s so intensely upsetting, but rather a combination of everything that is entailed.
Firstly; the way that the general public reacted to the whole thing is deeply disconcerting. Within a few hours after the news broke of Reeva Steenkamp’s death; jokes concerning both Reeva and Oscar went viral on social networks like twitter and facebook.
A fake Nando’s advertisement stating: “We don’t shoot our chicks. We just flame grill them” spread like wild-fire. The Nando’s franchise publicly denied that the advert was their doing, and shared their sympathies with both the Pistorius and the Steenkamp families.
Jokes like “Roses are Red, Violets are Glorious, don’t try to surprise Oscar Pistorius” was shared between colleagues by lunch-time.
Really? One person lost her life, the other one’s life has been altered to such an extent that absolutely nothing can save him from inconsolable grief and fear. This kind of reaction from the general South African public indicates our inability to show empathy, and (much worse), our absolute lack of respect for another person’s life.
It is no wonder that the murder- and rape rate is so horrendously high in our country, since it would seem that even the average person’s emotions have become desensitized by the crime and hatred in our country. It appears as if the average South African do not know where to draw the line; do not know what is socially acceptable and what is not.
Just to make myself clear; it is NOT acceptable to joke about a person that has been shot to death. I fail to see how it can be construed as humour when an innocent woman is hit by three consecutive bullets, slumping forward, tasting her own blood. I fail to see how you can laugh when that same woman spent the last few seconds of her life in absolute agony, lying in a pool of her own blood. This is NOT funny, it is appalling.
Secondly; I am completely flabbergasted at how disloyal and capricious our nation is, portrayed perfectly by the fact that most people openly attacked Pistorius the moment that they heard of the news. Irrespective of the fact that there have been no ruling by the court, and most of the information is hear-say by “sources that cannot be named”, since the police are not allowed to give out any information before the court has reached a verdict.
A few months ago, just about every one of us sat in front of our television screens, all teary eyed and patriotic. For a moment, it seemed as if there might be a glimmer of hope shining in the “Proudly South-African” farce.
Yet, that same man was thrown for the dogs the moment the news broke of the shooting. It’s strange; it seems as if the people actually want Pistorius to be guilty. As if the story would be so much more sensational if our hero came to a fall, in every sense of the word.
One of the many titles of articles that have been published thus far, cried : “Golden boy loses his shine”. I don’t understand this tendency to enjoy another person’s extreme pain and humiliation. Even if he is guilty, what does it say about YOU that you find so much gratification when another person comes to a fall?
Thirdly, I can only lower my head in despair and disappointment at the accusations concerning racism and religion that is once again being thrown around. Will this never get old?
When I read the comments posted on the articles that have been posted on the internet, you can almost smell the intense and absolute hatred between the people of different race and cultures. A large number of black men agreed unanimously that Oscar should be raped repeatedly in prison, and that he should suffer a slow and painful death.
Is this what it comes down to? After everything that our country has gone through, is this the level of our emotional and intellectual intelligence? Let’s sort this little problem out by raping the guy (really?) over and over again and then torturing him to such an extent that his only salvation is death. This says a lot about why South-African prisons are among the most dangerous and infamous in the world.
It is NOT normal or right to hope that a man gets raped repeatedly when he is suspected of murder. This is NOT how you deal with anyone, even a criminal. This school of thought is disgusting and barbaric, it is NOT socially acceptable! This is just another symptom of how sick and desensitized our society have become because of the intense hatred and fear, jealousy that is so heartbreakingly prominent in our society.
There was also a journalist who dedicated an entire article to deface Christianity and the general concept of religion, apparently because of the well-known fact that Pistorius is an Evangelist. I fail to see what Oscar’s religion has to do with whether he is guilty or not.
Did he, at any point in time, try to justify his acts by means of his spiritual beliefs? No. Have the Church ever said that it is physically impossible for a person that believes in God, to commit a crime of any sort? No.
Oscar’s religious beliefs are unequivocally irrelevant in this case. If that is your method of reasoning, you might just as well have targeted his star-sign. WHY is there such an overwhelming hatred between people of different religions and people who profess not to believe in anything at all?
Why can we not respect each other enough by embracing neutrality when something does not concern you personally?
So you don’t believe in God? I do. But I have no interest to judge you or to force my opinions on you, because your religious beliefs (or lack thereof) have absolutely no meaning in my life. Why do atheists then have this insatiable abhorrence towards religion as a whole? If you don’t believe in it, why do you care? I personally do not believe in Buddha, but I have enough respect for the next person in line to be a Buddhist, as it does not affect me personally in any way.
Lastly, am I the only person that hopes so fervently that Oscar is NOT guilty? It may be naïve, but I have an intense need to believe that it was all a terrible mistake. I cannot bear to believe that a person who carried so much of South-Africa’s pride and joy, could commit such a crime that reeks of outright cold-heartedness. It literally breaks my heart.
Oscar is twenty-six years old, and up until last Thursday, he was living the dream; because of passionate determination and exceptionally hard work. Tonight he sleeps in a cell, with only the cold hard reality of the horrific situation that he is trapped in to keep him company.
Reeva Steenkamp’s parents and family huddled around an open grave today, hearts and lives torn apart by the senseless death of a woman whose beauty was evident inside and outward.
One’s life ended in a cold second of eternal anti-climax. The other’s life ripped apart, without any hope or consolation to hold on to, guilty or not.
“We don’t shoot our chicks, we just flame grill them.”
It chills my soul.
Reeva’s father Barry Steenkamp, told The Mail on Sunday that even though their family is struggling to accept their daughter’s death, they do not harbour a sense of hatred in their hearts.
Of Pistorius he said: “He must be going through things that we cannot even know. We ask God every day to help us find a reason that something like this must have happened to Reeva. She was the most beautiful, kind girl in the world.”
I lost one of my super-heroes (ironically) on Valentine’s day..
I say the following with the utmost respect, and if it appears melodramatic, then it is only because of my lack of words to convey my sentiments with adequate clarity and depth;
Mr Barry, if you can manage to keep hatred at bay, even after such a tragedy has struck you and your loved ones, then I salute you. My only comfort is that if Reeva was brought up by such wise and loving parents, then she was on the right path, and is ultimately now in a better place. I wish, with all my heart that the rest of our nation could learn a thing or two from you.
As Oscar was declared fit for bail, one Facebook user, Philippa, took to the social media site today to write this post:
I have tried to stay quiet on the Oscar drama but today i have to speak out. In SA, like most civilised nations on the planet, there is the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven. Again, our criminal jurisprudence says that in a criminal case, one cannot file a lesser charge and then on presentation of evidence decide the crime was a grosser crime and upgrade the charge mid stream. This is why Oscar is charged with premeditated murder. It is the worst case scenario and the evidence will either support this charge or the charge will be downgraded according to the evidence. He is not a flight risk. He is not a wanton killer of random people. He is not a sociopath. He has admitted to killing Reeva. He is full of remorse. He got bail. He has admitted his guilt. The severity of the crime (premeditated or whatever) is still to be decided on presentation and on contemplation of the evidence that BOTH sides will present to the court. And that day will come. Please be careful on slandering the man before you know the facts. I am not in a Pro Oscar or an Anti Oscar camp. I am in the camp of justice and truth. And we all need to take a deep bloody breath and let the facts present. Please.
The jokes that have surrounded the tragedy have been relentless, from the day the news broke and people wrote “he hasn’t got a leg to stand on” through to those who’ve begun calling him the Blade Gunner.
Below are just two of the images that have swept the internet – the fake Nando’s ad which was posted on Facebook within 24 hours; and another that is being sent around via email by South Africans with the subject “Oscar Escapes from Police Custody”.
There are many others that are even more cruel and insensitive…