I have watched the Oscar Pistorius case unfold with a mixture of horror and transfixed fascination.
I left South Africa in 1999 and have lived in two countries since then, as well as staying for shorter times in six more. Many people in these countries seem to be of the attitude ‘Good! Apartheid has fallen and democracy has replaced it. We boycotted South African grapes and demonstrated against apartheid and did our bit. So, on to the next country filled with injustice…’. There are a faithful few people I know who have stayed interested in South Africa longer and are trying to help even today. But largely the international media has moved on to other things.
The Oscar Pistorius case has once again shone a light on South Africa and many people are horrified at what it exposed. A paranoid gun-toting nation terrified of being murdered in their beds, a shambolic system which is unable to protect them, police who are inept, corrupt and describe every single development in the case to the nearest journalist. A courtroom where the accused is blinded by flashlights every time he enters the courtroom and where more than 100 people are crammed into a room designed for 60. Articles are written on the terrible conditions inside South African prisons and the even worse conditions for disabled prisoners. The anger of many many people about violence against women seems out of proportion to the case at hand, until you read the statistics and then you wonder how on earth atrocities like this have escaped the outside world. And why oh why has the ruling ANC done nothing about it? Blaming apartheid for the chaotic state of the systems does not hold water more than 20 years later, particularly as the top politicians themselves live in luxury.
I hope that the continued interest in this case will bring to light the many many wrongs taking place in South Africa on a daily basis and bring the ruling party to book.
What happened in this case was terrible and my one hope is that Oscar Pistorius has a fair trial and that justice can be done. Though that will never ever bring Reeva Steenkamp back. A bigger achievement is if the worldwide attention on the case will force focus on the creaking unstable South African justice system and bring about improvements which will benefit everyone.