GIN-The trial of former “blade runner” and Olympic champion Oscar Pistorius opens this week in South Africa before hundreds of cameras and journalists from over 100 countries.
Pistorius, a speed runner with two prosthetic legs, was a popular South African personality until he shot his model girlfriend last year on Valentine’s Day in his apartment. Charged with the premeditated murder of his live-in companion, Reeva Steenkamp, Pistorius denies that the shooting was intentional; he says he was aiming at a presumed burglar.
The courtroom proceedings are being broadcast live on television and radio stations to subscribers of the local DStv channel. The initial indictment lists 107 witnesses who are prepared to testify for the state.
As hundreds of reporters jostle for space outside the court, some 80 journalists have settled inside—40 of them from South African media outlets, and another 40 from foreign media. An additional 200 journalists have access to an “overspill” room outside the court room.
The trial takes place as some 45,000 people, a third of the country’s prison population, sit in jail while their cases are repeatedly postponed.
Nooshin Erfani-Ghadimi, project coordinator for the Wits Justice Project, criticized the delayed justice for ordinary South Africans. “We have too many people waiting for trial … We’ve thrown a lot of resources at this case because it’s in the public eye, and we’ve seen it has received preferential treatment.”
Pistorius’ enormous wealth also sets his trial apart from others. “What we’re seeing with the Oscar case is that if you’ve got the money, a team of lawyers and forensic experts, you’re not equal before the law,” said Erfani-Ghadimi.
“This is such a high-profile case all the stops are being pulled out to show the wonders of the South African justice system,” gender expert and researcher Lisa Vetten said in a press interview. “But one would like to see the wonders of the justice system applied to all those other cases.”
Lebo Sabopa of the ANC Women’s League told the Mail & Guardian newspaper that she plans to be outside the courthouse through the duration of the trial in memory of Steenkamp. “There’s too much violence against women in this country, and that must stop,” she said.
Meanwhile, a second prisoners’ radio show is going live this week. Developed by Thetha FM and Wits Justice Project, “Jail Break” targets inmates, ex-inmates and their families. An earlier one, “Prisoners’ Corner” is archived online at https://soundcloud.com/witsjusticeproject/sets/wjs-thetha.
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News