Saturday March 8 2014

Feeling for grieving families

By Moses Banturaki

It seems like only yesterday that we all were left open-mouthed by the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp by his Sporting-icon boyfriend Oscar Pistorius in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.

The tragedy gripped and threw us onto two opposite sides of a line that separated those who believed it was an unfortunate accident and those who believed a defenseless woman was shot four times by a partner on whom she completely relied upon for protection.

It was very sensational stuff and perfect fodder for the quick and harsh court of public opinion whose inconsiderate sense of judgment was made worse by the emotionalism of social media and the unprocessed nature of its instantaneous information.

Here was a provocative story in a society that just won’t shake free of its stereo types. And truth be told Oscar Pistroius is a white sports superstar in a society that has a history of letting his kind off lightly while Reeva Steenkamp was a young woman felled down in a nation where many women die in the hands of people they know and trust.

Still that alone should not condemn a man. Your columnist is a strong believer in the universal maxim that a man must be presumed innocent until proven guilty. And now it seems that the opportunity to reveal that truth has now arrived.

Whether that truth will set Oscar Pistorius free or condemn him to a life of regret and untold sufferings, is something that will now be revealed to us between now and the one year or so it will take Judge Thokozile Masipa to pronounce herself.
But regardless of what verdict will be arrived at, it must not be forgotten that this is not about how much those who believe they are above censure must be made to pay or how vulnerable those who dare to cross into their circles are.

It should be remembered that in the end this is really about two families struck by the tragic circumstances of a life cut shot in its youth. So as we eagerly await to gobble up all the bits from this televised trial, let us not for a moment think that this is ‘Boston Legal’ or any of that cheap nonsense that we have come to refer to as Reality Television and to which we turn to fix our hedonistic cravings. This is a real life story of hurt and regret.

So no matter how much we feel like those motorists who slow down at a scene of a horrific traffic accident to peek at mangled flesh and blood, no matter how much we are compelled by our natural attraction for gory detail, let us like Reeva Steenkamp’s mother said, respect the families’ right to grieve.

I believe we can follow the trial without fueling the fire it has already generated with unnecessary drama. I belive all stakeholders are aware of how much attention all this has generated and will be looking to ensure that justice is arrived at professionally.

I also believe that regardless of the outcome and especially after what has been a nightmare of a year, the families of the two victims (yes even Oscar Pistorius is a victim) will be looking for closure.