5 things the world's saying about Oscar's trial

2014-09-09 20:45
Oscar Pistorius (File, AP)

Oscar Pistorius (File, AP)

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Cape Town - South Africa is holding its breath for Thursday’s verdict on Oscar Pistorius, but what is the rest of the world saying?

The 2012 Olympics and Paralympics propelled Pistorius to superstardom, making him a household name in far flung corners of the globe.

But the Bladerunner’s spectacular fall from grace came within months, with the death of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013.

Still fresh in people’s minds across the world, Pistorius went from hero to zero - and the spotlight fell on South Africa for answers.

This week, those answers will finally come - as Judge Thokozile Masipa delivers her verdict.

What does the world think? Here are some views:

1) It could be bigger than OJ Simpson

Americans have struggled to compare the Pistorius case, says the Washington Post, which is why they opt for OJ Simpson: two sports stars, two glamorous blondes.

Yet as both the Post, the Christian Science Monitor and our own SABC have pointed out, Pistorius was a bigger star than Simpson was at the time of Steenkamp’s death.

Pistorius had won two gold medals at the London Paralympics just months before. “He was very much at his peak”, said the Post. Simpson, a football star, wasn’t well known internationally.

The evidence was different - Simpson’s case revolved around proving whether or not he was at the scene, while Pistorius readily admitted he was.

Many felt that as a black man in America, Simpson faced bias. As a white man in South Africa, Pistorius's race has given way to another debate: gun use in the country.

The Post concludes: “The biggest difference right now, is that no one knows what will happen in the Pistorius case. People might disagree with the verdict in the Simpson case, but he was found not guilty.”

2) SA’s legal system is on trial

One thing many commentators do agree on however, is the test for South Africa.

The Pistorius trial has “provided a snapshot of the South African criminal justice system”, says the Voice of America (VoA).

On one hand, it has been an impressive show of “tenacious lawyers and gritty debate”, but it isn’t clear if the “legal spectacle” is a true representation of the South African justice system.

Instead, the VoA claims that it has become a “test case” of South Africa’s ability to deliver justice - in a country “where inequality persists 20 years after the end of apartheid”.

Indeed, says the Sydney Morning Herald, “It is an irony lost on no one that in a country with such a prominent history of racial tension, the world will be watching on Thursday as a black woman who grew up in the poor townships of South Africa sits in judgment of a white man of class, privilege, and wealth.”

3) It leaves a dark legacy

The fate of Steenkamp and Pistorius is sealed, as far as Nigeria’s All Africa is concerned. “There will be losers and losers only,” writes Bunmi Makinwa from Lagos.

But beyond the judgment, guns and violence are at the core of the case, he said.

South Africa faces a “myriad of issues”, with citizens distrusting the system so much that they resort to violence to resolve problems.

The Economist magazine also points out that the trial has revived a long-running debate about crime.

Plus, “though it is less hotly debated, the most enduring legacy” of the Pistorius spectacle may be its impact on the police and on the justice system.

Claiming that “flaws in both have been exposed”, it lists failures such as mishandling evidence, “embarrassingly poor” courtroom translation and the revelation that one detective was facing an attempted murder charge himself.

4) We have learned something

Overall, our justice system has stood up to being beamed across the nation and abroad.

In fact, a celebrity murder case “may teach South Africans a bit about themselves”, says the Economist. “Justice is, after all, being done”.

We can be reassured by the fact a famous white man is being “attacked and defended” in equal measure.

And we may even learn something, according to the Voice of America, which quotes experts claiming that it is helping to educate a large number of South Africans about their legal rights.

5) And our judge is a hit

The Pistorius trial has been a media circus from the outset, with a host of larger-than-life figures.

But amid it all, the New York Times noted that Judge Masipa “steadfastly avoided the limelight”.

The BBC said she asked “surprisingly few questions”, and only smiled “inscrutably from time to time”. She was simply “unflappable”, All Africa declared.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), “If she has been sympathetic to any witness, horrified by the manner of Reeva Steenkamp's death, appalled by lawyer tactics, or frustrated by the pace of the case, it has been imperceptible.”

It is not only her sympathies that remain a mystery. The BBC’s Africa correspondent Andrew Harding claims that throughout the trial, Masipa “gave no hint as to which way she was leaning”.

The SMH concluded: “With the eyes of the world on her, she will judge him.

Read more on:    gerrie nel  |  reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  barry roux  |  thokozile masipa  |  crime  |  pistorius trial

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