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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  • - 2013-02-21 15:56

    I agree with your sentiments that a Court of Law doesn't necessarily determine the Facts but more often who has the better Lawyer and at the moment in this case that is pretty obvious. That being said it's important for people to know that there is no innocence here. He is certainly guilty of intentionally shooting and killing the person who was behind the door. If there is a mistake here it's that it was Reeva behind the door; it was not a mistake that he killed the person behind the door. Using his best case defence, from the moment he came in from the Balcony (ie he was fully awake)and went and picked up his gun he had every intention of shooting the person behind the door. He made no attempt to Identify who that person was; made no attempt to warn or take into custody the "intruder"; he also made no attempt to wake Reeva and whisk her away to safety before embarking on his execution of that person behind that door. And execution is what it was as it certainly was not in self defence as there was no imminent danger to him and he certainly had other options available to him other than blasting away. That is culpable homicide and will see him locked up for a long time. This guy is not a handicapped person who shirks from adversity but a gung ho Red Blooded South African male who embraces adversity and he did that here. He chose not to save Reeva and himself from this intruder or to arrest the intruder but to summarily execute the intruder. And that is his best defence.

      flysouth - 2013-02-21 16:43

      That might be his best defence because it is the only one that is close to the truth and somewhat credible - as for helping him avoid severe punishment, not a hope! Perhaps people do not know this but for example and in terms of the Firearms Act of 2000, having the gun beside or under the bed is an offence - punishable by up to 15 years jail time! Seriously, yes! The gun must AT ALL TIMES be in one of two places: 1. In an approved safe of which ONLY the owner may have a key. 2. On the person of the owner in a holster or similar apparatus concealed from view under clothing or carried on the person in an opaque bag or container. Given the nature of prosecutions where the prosecutors invariably load up all ammunition at once, I am amazed that such charges have not been already added to the charge sheet!

      rooikop.ouma - 2013-02-21 21:59

      I so agree with your views,thank you for bringing some good analysis to this emotional problem,some people want Oscar to be innocent ,of what!! He shot the girl,that is enough for us!!

      Annelien Jones - 2013-02-22 05:57

      luckily in this country the accused is not guilty unitll proven otherwise.

      flysouth - 2013-02-22 10:27

      @Nishaat Well the law is most often observed 'in the breach' - but that is the law and I expect that many,many gun-owners, including cops etc., break that law every day because it is so truly stupid. But then we must all understand that the FCA is designed to deter gun-ownership by the law-abiding whilst having no effect at all on illegal and criminally held guns.

  • adriano.landi.39 - 2013-02-21 20:52

    'We will never know the truth' The truth does not matter as there are no living witnesses... what matters is what you can prove in court ... It's up to the state to get their sh't together... At this stage Oscar 1 State 0 Oscar will get bail tomorrow.... Let's wait for the trial is there is one.... Who knows in SA anything can happen .... It's like watching a soapy... on disrespect to both families but the media is to blame whether they reported thing intentionally or not. Sad but true

      Annelien Jones - 2013-02-22 05:53

      Barry Roux said this case will definitely go too trial.

  • koo.doyle - 2013-02-22 06:45

    I agree with this but for one point. "That Reeva didn't reply when he yelled is another." IF she were in the bathroom, and heard him shout to her to call the police, she had no way of knowing what was happening on the other side of the door, or that he was about to fire on the bathroom. She could well have assumed that he knew she was in the bathroom, and may have not wanted to give her location away, believing there were intruders in the house.

      arthur.salvado - 2013-02-22 08:42

      Koo. The point is, what would Reeva be doing in the dark behind a closed door with a cell phone. If he assumed she was in bed, then why shout at her to call the police when he could merely have whispered in her ear AND find her phone in total DARKNESS. Would Reeva be in total darkness behind a closed door and if the light was on, what type of burglar puts a light on? It will come put on the trial and NOT in a bail application . Agreed though, too many possibilities but there remains a lot of answered things that Oscar will have to answer during the trial

      koo.doyle - 2013-02-22 10:26

      I hear what you're saying, but people react to a crisis differently. Some run towards it, some away from it, some freeze. If he were not in the bed, it may not have occurred to him to whisper. Perhaps he thought shouting might scare the intruders? We just don't know. I want to see if the evidence matches his story. Time will tell.

  • tracy.g.basson - 2013-02-22 12:13

    I have been in the unfortunate circumstance of having to listen to police make up their own scenario's instead of listening to the actual facts. Luckily we were able to obtain ccv tv footage which proved what we were trying to tell them, and the police finally started looking for the criminal. I shudder to think what would've happened if there was no footage which proved our statement to the police. Would I have been in Oscar's position. I do wonder. I have absolutely no faith in the police getting the scenario's correct, as they would not listen to anything we had to say. I also know how difficult it is to make statements that include every word you want to hear when you are still in shock at what has happened. And having to live in constant fear of crime myself and seeing our country fall further and further into the hands of the violent criminals (just read the endless murders, rapes etc on news 24)I can understand his fear of criminals and having a gun readily at hand. Its a very sad and unfortunate situation and I really hope the judge see's through all the misrepresentations from the investigating officers and realises that this is, at most, culpable homicide.

  • esther.migwi.1 - 2013-02-22 12:25

    The truth is he has not tried to deny that he shot Reeva, he has chosen to withstand trail with all the media frenzy, he has not even once tried to use his celebrity. He gave a spontaneous affidavit, which even the leading chief investigator could not find fault with. Reeva's own best friend admits to them being completely in love. He is a disciplined sportsman, who has been through trying times and knows what defeat is, yet not once has he ever shown rage in his losses,so why would he pre-plan to kill his girlfriend at 3 am in the morning and not try make the scene look more credible to his version. Why did he shoot through a closed door and not try break down the door and have the "pleasure" of seeing her slump over- he did not shoot. Reeva because he was in rage, there was no sign of a struggle, or defense wound on Reeva, which only goes to prove his SPONTANEOUS testimony. He had no motive and no past criminal domestic violence charge to support the states case. there were no signs of struggle, no shattered objects.

      hettie.hansen.3 - 2013-02-22 13:47

      Esther he did not give testimony he gave an affidavit it is not the same,and he do not have to use his celebrity status his defense make use of it regularly,even the fact that his legs need maintenance and therefore he will not flee.

      heathwaymaster - 2013-02-25 12:49

      Esther, for a man to callously kill a woman as Oscar did, the only answer is a love triangle. Oscar felt Reeva had cheated on him, and his attitude was "If I can't have you, then nobody else will”. I guarantee that if you asked any experienced crime detective anywhere in the World, you will get the same answer, that it was a crime of passion. In this case however, the police will have to prove beyond any doubt, that Oscars version did not happen. With the high powered lawyer he has, the police may never be able to prove this to the courts satisfaction. That is why I have no faith in comments like "Let the Law take its course - everyone is innocent until proved guilty". Money could well buy this verdict.

  • hettie.hansen.3 - 2013-02-22 13:36

    I absolutely agree that he must get bail,I hope they dont make an example of him for the movement of stop rape and killing of women and children,but he must pay for what he did wrong.Even if it is just manslaughter you do not have to discharge your firearm 3-4 times,if you do that you intend serious harm to the person at the other side,hopefully they will go on with a decent trail and not a circus but I agree we will never know the whole truth of what happened that morning.

  • ANASKA - 2013-02-22 17:19

    Excellent article! - Pistorius is out on bail - he is the only one that knows the full truth and feel he should have given evidence!!! - My heart goes out to the Steenkamp family - Your daughter was an angel and died a gruesome death - SHE IS NOW WITH HER OWN ANGELS!

  • carol.reed.7359 - 2013-02-22 18:32

    Excellent article. Thanks!

  • lara.vanrooyen.1 - 2013-02-23 08:46

    Vernon Philander is a potential all-rounder. See, there is life outside the Oscar trial.

  • bon.bon.73157 - 2013-02-23 18:31

    I would love to know what was on the USB stick. It must have been really important to be worring about it at a time like that - Reeva's body still in the house.

  • izan.botes.7 - 2013-02-25 00:51

    It baffles and irritates me that journalist like Georgina think she is doing us n favor by writing condescending articles like this. Please stop thinking we need your guidance with interpreting the news and just do your job and report the facts.

  • Sydney Shag-Spear Malatsi - 2013-02-25 00:57


  • IanxRhodes - 2013-02-25 15:56

    Money will count in this case, and Pistorius and Co. have plenty of that. I have personally witnessed a regional court prosecutor being totally outclassed by a highly qualified attorney. As a result the attorneys client who was on trial for the rape of an 8 year old (my foster child) and the molestation of her 18 month old sister was found "not guilty". He was subsequently arrested on a similar charge 6 months later in Cape Town.

  • donald.perumal - 2013-02-25 21:44

    You won't know the truth even if it stared you in the face because you are not seeking the truth but naked sensationalism!

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