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Oscar Pistorius and Carte Blanche

17 February 2014, 10:22

Carte Blanche devoted its whole Sunday night segment to a program that explored the facts and circumstances of the now internationally famous killing of Reeva Steenkamp by Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius, known as the "Blade Runner".

Many have taken exception to this screening, raising various objections, including the notion that, as the matter was sub judice, Carte Blanche was out of order.

What we all need to understand is that our system of criminal justice is underpinned by a very sacred doctrine that is expressed as - "justice must not only be done, but also seen to be done". 

It is not only a doctrine, it is also how our system actually works. By this is meant that there has to be as much transparency about a criminal trial as is actually achievable. That is why our trials are all in what is called "open Court", i.e., in fora to which the general public has access.

This is the situation in the whole of the free world.  The free world has adopted this stance because of very bad history in which human beings were denied justice in secret trials, typically by fascist regimes. History tells us that secret trials are one hallmark of tyrannical fascist regimes. 

Therefore our insistence in having a trial in open Court is to ensure that the general public also has access to all the facts and circumstances of the case. This enables the general public to make up its own mind up on whether or not justice is and/or has been done. 

Now the reality is that only a tiny fraction of the general public will have the facility of actually being in Court when the matter is tried. How then can the sacred notion that "justice must also be seen to be done" be satisfied? 

This is where the media plays an extremely important roll.  It is via the media that we are alerted to, and informed, about crime, criminals and the consequences.

For instance, that is how we became aware of our crooked chief cop Jackie Selebi, being protected  by none other than our then President, Thabo Mbeki. 

Carte Blanche was doing no more than ensuring that we are all better informed about the facts of the case and its cardinal features. In no way did it take sides on the crucial issue of whether or not Oscar was guilty or innocent. 

The program was concerned to inform us of the known and unknown facts and circumstance(s), no more, no less.  In this way we are now all better informed on what happened; what is in issue and especially on what challenges there are as to resolving the vexed issue of guilt or innocence.

That is why the program was called "Burden of Truth".  It did not claim to have resolved that burden at any stage. That is the point here. So it made no attempt to pre-empt the decision that the Trial Court will have to make. It merely set out the forthcoming challenge(s) that will present at the trial. It did an outstanding job.  

Carte Blanche can only be commended. So if you feel that you have been propositioned on the vexed issue of guilt or innocence, that feeling is self imposed. Unburden yourself and wait for the trial. At least you will now be better able to appreciated what the "burden of truth" is all about in the trial.

This brings up the second critical issue we all need to understand. Oscar is presumed to be innocent until proved guilty in an open Court of law and justice

This presumption is non negotiable, as it is enshrined as a fundamental human right in our Constitution that we all have a duty to uphold as citizens. 

So, with great respect, stop the complaints; be appreciative that we have a free media in South Africa that helps us on the issues that are then tried in open Court.
In this way we will be better able to decide if "justice has not only been done, but also been seen to be done"

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