Politicians can't resist lure of Pistorius

2014-03-05 14:19
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Oscar Pistorius in court - day 3

It's day three of Oscar Pistorius's trial in the North Gauteng High Court. See pictures from the courtroom here.

Pretoria - The lure of the Oscar Pistorius murder trial is too much, it seems, even for our top politicians to resist. The crowd of onlookers and cameramen outside the North Gauteng High Court was not to be shaken into commotion by the arrival of the accused alone.

Just before the trial was due to begin, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane arrived with a gaggle of green-suited women from the African National Congress’ Women’s League.

“I am here to offer support,” Mokonyane said, as she ensconced herself next to the Steenkamp family, who are seated in front of the public gallery, away from the side behind the murder accused himself. At various times in the morning, she whispered commiserations to the Steenkamps.

Mokonyane was something of a welcome distraction in a slow morning that was interrupted first by the defence, which required the notes taken by Charl Johnson, one of the neighbours who overheard the noise as Reeva Steenkamp died, and then again to prepare for Kevin Lerena (a professional boxer who was with Pistorius when he discharged a gun in a restaurant last year), who went onto the stand in Johnson’s place.

The ANC Women’s League was at the high court at the start of the trial too, in larger numbers. They were there to oppose violence against women and children, according to the league spokesperson Jackie Mofokeng. But they quickly left after proceedings began inside the courtroom.

EFF protesters

It was not just the ANCWL that was attracted to Pretoria - on Tuesday morning, a small group of people in Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) shirts and berets ran past the high court. They then turned to Church Square, located behind the Palace of Justice, to sing and demonstrate for the lunchtime crowd passing by.

“Dubul’ uGwede,” they sang into the damp summer air.

If it was not for the Pistorius trial, dubbed in certain areas as South Africa’s trial of the century, most of the journalists and crew parked outside the high court would have been scattered throughout the world. The South Africans would be focused on election coverage, probably.

And yes, there are other important things happening in the world, such as the elections on 7 May.

The last few months have seen the ANC and opposition parties such as the Democratic Alliance and the EFF launch their election manifestos.

The discussions about the future of South Africa came and went quickly, even before the Pistorius trial started. The public’s appetite for ‘real news’ only went so far.

The public interest vs what interests the public

The run-up to the elections has an excitement of its own, as several small parties, including the EFF, have joined together to sue the Independent Electoral Commission for what they describe as unfairly expensive entrance fees.

But the eyes of the world are not focused on the minutiae of election season. It is because the elections will not provide much of a spectacle.

The chances of a major upset to the ruling party are so slim as to be non-existent, in spite of new, exciting entrants like the red berets.

It is also because, given a choice, most people would rather be titillated by the violent death of a woman at the hands of a famous man, than concern themselves with politics. This is the nature of things.

The politicians know this. Even they must bow to the realisation that the public has long ago forgotten the real difference between what interests it, and what is in the public interest.

And here they are, sitting next to the Steenkamp family, or demonstrating outside the court. After all, there is an army of journalists to act out in front of.

Read more on:    nomvula mokonyane  |  reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius  |  pistorius trial  |  elections 2014  |  politics

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