Georgina Guedes

We'll never know the truth

2013-02-21 15:22

Georgina Guedes
What did Zuma say in the State of the Nation? Is there cricket on? What did some woman author in the UK say about the Duchess of Cambridge? Most South Africans would be hard pressed to answer any of these questions (except maybe the cricket one), because for the past week, there has been no news story other than Oscar Pistorius.

I have been very quiet about the story on Twitter and on Facebook, and last week I chose not to devote my column to it. This week, since it hoards every headline and front page of the South African news cycle, and preoccupies every moment of the national psyche, I’ve decided to venture a few thoughts on the matter.

The first is that we will never know the truth. Certain incontrovertible facts might emerge in the trial, but we’ll never know for sure what happened. For everyone who is hoping for some miraculous epiphany, it ain’t going to be delivered. We can only see how the facts unfold and watch our legal system form its opinion, while we form ours.

Many people have said that we must apply Occam's Razor to the scenarios with which we are presented - simply put, that the solution that requires the least assumptions must be the correct one. This is great for problem solving, but not so good when dealing with an actual crime investigation, in which it is entirely possible that people might do a string of strange things.

There are a number of strange things that we are required to believe for Oscar's story to make sense. That he was too sleep-befuddled or adrenaline-high to apply Occam's Razor himself to determine who might have been in the bathroom is one. That Reeva didn't reply when he yelled is another. That he didn’t check or notice that she was in bed next to him is a third.

That said, everything that we were required to believe for the prosecution’s version of the events has been picked apart very efficiently by Oscar’s defence attorney.

Which brings me to another of the observations that I’m going to take away from all of this. While our legal system might still function very well, you’d think that when the eyes of the entire world were upon us, that our prosecutors would have got their facts very neatly lined up in a straight line. As it is, they look silly. Please preserve me from ever being at the hands of this legal system without Oscar’s money or clout to get the best possible legal team on my side.

I’ve also made a lot of human observations in the last week. People are inclined to believe whatever version of events they want to believe. People also fancy that they are extremely clever; I’ve heard theories about bullet trajectory and examinations of human psyche from people with arts degrees. People will claim a friendship with a celebrity when they’ve only met them once at a cocktail party.

I’ve also watched the character assassination of Oscar Pistorius and Hilton Botha (and in the case of one bizarre rant by a Nigerian ex-minister, Reeva Steenkamp). The only people who’ve emerged from this looking decent are the Steenkamp family, who have displayed all the characteristics of kindness and intelligence that have been attributed to their daughter.

At the end of it all, short of some confession or damning evidence, it’s going to be up to the court to decide whether Oscar is just a silly, trigger-happy cowboy or a coldhearted killer, and we’ll never know the actual truth. But we might be facing some uncomfortable truths about ourselves as a nation, and about each one of us as spectators to a human tragedy.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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Read more on:    hilton botha  |  reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius

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