The fall of an icon: Oscar's dark side

2013-02-17 10:00

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As Oscar’s dark side is revealed, questions will be asked about how this could happen to such a golden couple, writes Adriaan Basson.

Later this year, when Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa releases the annual crime statistics, Reeva Steenkamp’s murder will be recorded in black and white under the “murder” category for the Boschkop Police Station in Pretoria.

The station will again be one of the shining lights as far as murder stats go.

In a country where, on average, 16 000 people are murdered annually, Boschkop, which covers the posh Silver Lakes and surrounding estates, will probably record fewer than 10 murders for the 2012/13 book year.

Last year, seven people lost their lives in the station’s service area. The year before that, nine people were murdered in this affluent Pretoria East neighbourhood.

Just a few kilometres away, in Mamelodi East, the local police station recorded 50 murders last year. This is three murders fewer than the year before.

Ironically, Oscar Pistorius was taken to the Mamelodi Hospital this week to be tested for drug use and checked for injuries by the district surgeon.

Mamelodi is not a place Pistorius would have frequented often.

He, like probably all of his neighbours in Silver Lakes and its surrounding estates, can afford the services of private hospitals and clinics.

But on Thursday, Pistorius’ luxury, sponsored world of flashy cars and branded sunglasses, came crashing down after he was arrested for Steenkamp’s murder.

Gone was the Nike-punted façade of our golden boy – the man who had succeeded against all odds.

Suddenly, he was Oscar the suspect, driven away by underpaid policemen in a humble Volkswagen Polo, wearing a grey hoodie to hide his familiar face.

At the charge office, he would have had to endure the interior of a modest police office, sit on plastic chairs (if any) and fill in statements with a Bic pen.

It is often through crime that the lives of the rich and famous collide with those of the rest.

In South Africa, we have become accustomed to the stereotype of the poor, black assailant who broke into, stole, hijacked or murdered his more affluent victim.

No wonder it was so easy for Pistorius to tell police on the scene that he used his weapon on a suspected burglar.

Middle class South Africans spend millions of rands each year on private security: electric fences, boom gates and alarm systems keep the enemy out.

And so we are surprised each year when Mthethwa or his predecessors reveal that between seven and eight out of 10 South Africans who are murdered each year knew their attackers.

I guess it is easier to view the criminal as an outsider: a faceless beast who will pounce when you are asleep.

Many South Africans, like Pistorius, sleep with guns under their pillows, ready to defend.

But too often those weapons are used on the offensive.

South Africans love the idea of an untainted hero. Oscar was one, until Thursday morning.

Unexamined is the underbelly of our heroes – human beings of flesh and blood who fear, cry, hurt and fall.

As the dark side of our golden boy continues to unravel, there will be more questions about how it could happen to Oscar and Reeva, a golden couple with the world at their feet.

This assumes that the glamorous world of sport, fashion, money and beauty is incapable of unspoken cruelty, something we should know to be a lie.

But the lie is a multimillion-dollar industry, kept alive by all of us who create gods just to see them fall, time after time.

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