An ‘OJ Simpson’ syndrome case

2014-05-16 00:00

HELLO Jani. I disagree that Eugene Terre’Blanche and Oscar Pistorius are cut from the same cloth.

Terre’Blanche was a selfish right-wing Afrikaner who believed that South Africa was for Afrikaners only.

By all accounts he was of low intelligence. He was not even a good horseman.

Pistorius is a very different person altogether. He is undoubtedly of high intelligence.

He has overcome a physical adversity to get to the top of his chosen profession. He is one of the most recognised faces on Earth today, both for his athletic achievements and now for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp.

The road to fame and wealth affects people in different ways. Some become extremely positive and successful, some don’t.

Many wealthy businesspeople, sportspeople and politicians suffer from a syndrome that I call the “OJ Simpson” syndrome, where they think that their fame and their wealth take them above the law.

They are immune. If they break the law, they will simply hire the best lawyers and spin doctors who will get them out of their predicament.

The judicial system in South Africa and many of its officers are deeply flawed. I know because I fought a law case for 11 years.

It is these flaws that Pistorius and his legal team hope to exploit. There is a saying in the legal circles that if you have enough money, good lawyers can get you off anything.

Pistorius is banking on this. Sport is entertainment, and top sportspeople are coached to handle the media. Even the Blue Bulls Rugby players go through a course in media technique.

Pistorius has performed in front of large crowds, he has given many interviews. He is skilled at performing in front of cameras. Therefore when the going gets tough in the court room, he throws an “Oscar performance”.

Pistorius believes that with the defence lawyers hired at great cost and his ability to perform at the right time, he can convince the court that his version is the correct one. Unfortunately he has made a critical miscalculation. A court room is not a race track and the officers of the court are not fellow competitors. Pistorius is out of his comfort zone and he is up against a brilliant legal mind in Gerrie Nel.

In short, Nel has ruthlessly exposed Pistorius and, like Usain Bolt, he has left Pistorius for dead. The lessons to be learnt out of this tragic event are: to every young girl who has got herself into an abusive, destructive relationship, leave and leave soon.

We as parents can try to guide and protect our daughters when they are heading into bad relationships. Unfortunately love is terribly blind.

To our sons we have to try to convey to them that in a relationship, they come from a different perspective. They come from physical needs whereas the girl comes with emotional needs. It is these two needs that sometimes get tragically confused.

One day I filmed a male lion trying to mate with a lioness. The lioness refused to mate and he killed her. Researchers working on chimpanzees have found that their emotions are similar to that of humans. Pleasure, sadness, curiosity, alarm and rage have all been recorded in chimpanzee behaviour. Brutality comparable with human beings has been recorded, as male chimpanzees brutalise and even kill female chimpanzees, apparently to reinforce the male-dominated society. Chimpanzee’s share 99% of our genetic make-up.

I venture that all of us at some time in our lives, have suffered temporary insanity. I remember vividly when a woman would not do what I wanted, taking out my gun and firing, fortunately, into the air. I was in love with the woman and deeply hurt by a remark she made.

I was “temporarily insane”. In retrospect Pistorius should have pleaded that his was a crime of passion.

Instead, he took the low road and concocted a version that is unbelievable.

Judge Thokozile Masipa comes from a social worker background and I suspect she will be ruthless in her judgment of Pistorius.

As parents, the lesson from this tragic event is to teach our children that mistakes happen all the time. It’s how you stand up from those mistakes that is important. How you take responsibility for your actions. Pistorius never learnt that or perhaps he thinks he is too rich and famous to take responsibility. He will pay dearly for that.

If only Steenkamp had run out of the house and not into the toilet, she may have been alive today.

To the Steenkamp family, my deepest condolences.

• John Varty is a South African

conservationist and film-maker who specialises in big cats.

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