Bang Bang Bang Bang - The Grim Reality of the Oscar Pistorius Trial

2014-03-20 09:34

As we approach day 14 of what has been sensationally and rather crassly dubbed the “trial of the century” it feels that the greater South African public has forgotten one imperative truth. The trial into the killing, at her prime, of an unquestionably innocent and radiant Reeva Steenkamp as riveting as it is must never be confused with a daily soapie. Real people, real emotions and real families are and continue to be devastated.

I am not going to focus on any single witness’ individual testimony or on the general course of court proceedings as those have been reported, “Tweeted” on and analysed ad nauseum, I wish to focus on the tragic human aspect of this rather surreal yet profoundly tragic state of affairs that two families and the country at large find themselves in. The trial seems to have floated off into a realm of such intrigue so that the brain can spend big chunks of time forgetting the awful basis of “The State vs. Oscar Pistorius.

There is a German psychological term, Schadenfreude, which is defined as the human condition which brings delight in the misfortune of others. Does this innocuous academic term adequately describe our fascination as a country with the daily events taking place at the North Gauteng High Court? I neither seek to admonish nor judge the country’s complete captivation with the trial, I simply seek to ascertain why it is that so many people from so many walks of life seem to be so utterly enthralled by what is at its core a rather ghoulish and macabre event

As a trained attorney I respect our laws and most crucially our Constitution which clearly and unequivocally enunciates the principle of innocent until proven guilty. In that vain I cannot nor would I ever contemplate making a determination on the guilt of Oscar Pistorius, that unenviable and burdensome task is thankfully left in the hands of the honourable Judge Thokozile Masipa and her assessors.

Whatever your opinion of whether Pistorius purposely killed his girlfriend of three months as the prosecution purports or he killed her accidentally by mistaking her for an intruder as Pistorius himself claims, that's a life with a hard, hard road from here. Whatever your opinion of his sincerity in his emotion during court proceedings, that's a life that doubles as a nightmare.

As June Steenkamp courageously and with dignity represents her devastated family, without the support of her clearly distraught and ailing husband, who ironically is also named Barry, do you think she wishes mortal ill on the accused? After what she has experienced, in all its harrowing finality, surely she cannot. For there is no outcome for the decimated Steenkamp family that will ever bring back their joy, their happiness, there contentment with the world, there is no Court in the land that will ever bring back their little girl.

So much emphasis will go to the fairness of the decision if he does go free, as if that is a prize for the Defence or that being sent to jail would equally be a prize for the State -- but in that moment where Oscar and June appeared to break down, in separate incidents, you could see there aren't any prizes to be had here. In that moment, you might have thought that while one vibrant life had ended, another had gone largely ruined. Certainly all of those things could coax the mind into a different compartment for a spell, but thus far, it keeps coming back to where it should, back to the unfathomable sorrow.

So I put it to South Africa, are we revelling in Schadenfreude while forgetting that one intangible concept that links us all together, Ubuntu? Lest we forget we are who we are because of other people, even Oscar Pistorius.

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