18
Feb
13

Oscar Pistorius & Reeva Steenkamp – a shattered dream !


Oscar.NMMU.02

Valentine’s Day will never be the same again for me.

In its stead – from now on – I will dedicate this universal day of twosome love to the memory of Reeva Steenkamp, Anene Booysen, and the millions of other women, worldwide, who have trusted – and unwittingly allowed – men of power to take any undue advantage of them, how or whatsoever.

By power, I mean via a route that is physical, psychological or of material influence, or any combination thereof.

As Lord Acton wrote in 1887:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

So many thoughts have flowed through my mind over the past 3 days, and I’d like to deal with a few key points here.

Firstly – Reeva Steenkamp and honouring her memory.

Like most, I knew nothing about this beautiful young woman until after the tragedy. However, three very positive things now stand out for me:

– She qualified as a lawyer, with plans to become an advocate, which is not an easy road in jurisprudence. This means she was not only bright, but had developed a sense of what is right-and-wrong, coupled with an understanding of law. This is an extremely valuable quality for anyone to possess;

– She attracted work in the modelling world, as a result of her physical attributes, and clearly saw an opportunity to use her natural assets whilst young, and so put them to good use. The fact that she tweeted about the appalling abuse and violence against women a day or two before her tragic death, plus had been scheduled to speak on this subject on Valentine’s Day evening, means she was wisely adding value in our communal social justice sphere, which is really admirable; and

– Last, but not least, I am so impressed by the dignified silence her family has taken in this ugly turn of events. That, for me, shows that she has grown up in a close-knit, loving family of good values. I sense she then carried that light into her own life.

Thus, I firmly believe that, in whatever road that lies ahead, we must never forget that we’ve lost a hugely valuable member of our community who surely would have added more value to our world than what she might have taken from it. On that basis, we must not allow her victimhood to become yet another statistic in our brutal and crime-ridden society.

We must keep her flame alive, as a tribute to others less fortunate who’ve paid the supreme price … and will still do so.

Secondly – we must seriously look into our own thinking and behaviour, as citizens of this land we love so dearly.

Whilst I am the ‘eternal-optimist’, and am often guilty of over-promoting positivism in the face of realism, I can be pragmatic. Thus, I am as guilty as the next for taking Oscar Pistorius and putting him on a pedestal.

I’ve thought long and hard about this.

Our modern world of glitterati and twitterati helps create a sense of false well-being amongst us all. So when dark clouds gather – as happens in this nation of a fractured rainbow daily – we snatch any little pieces of ‘silver-linings’ and hold them close to our bosoms. Readily and easily.

We shower ‘adoration’ on human beings daily, whether they be film-stars, musicians, royalty or leaders in the realms of business, politics and social causes.

Like for so many others across our land – and the world – Oscar’s fall from grace has been a massive reality check for me, specifically since I’ve been so active in recent times on social media championing his banner.

As I said – I’m just as guilty as Joe or Jenny Bloggs of this, but – yet again – having been wounded by this specific turn of events, I’m going to try to be a little more diligent in researching those people whom I might champion in the future. I think we all should, but I admit that it’s easier said than done.

Thirdly – and I believe this is very important – South Africa is a fledgling democracy, a long way off maturity.

What democracy is all about is that, principally, the “people shall govern”.

This means that we need to understand that political leaders represent OUR interests, and that when legislators – i.e. OUR electees – enact laws, they must mirror OUR collective values and needs. In the process, we must have independent courts and magistrates/judges, PLUS we must have a free and independent media that acts as a communal watchdog over our civic interests.

Many people bemoan the fact that the media have speculated on certain issues of this case and even reported on certain alleged facts.

I believe this is a very healthy democracy in play, provided that such actions are mature, objective and responsible. Given the fact that the Pistorius team has resources to fight untruths and innuendos, we must trust our editors to receive good counsel before publication, or else they could face serious litigation. So there is a fair balance in play in this untoward matter.

I grew up when John F Kennedy was assassinated, and John Lennon, and many others. A good press interrogated those stories in depth, well before such things got to court, precisely because they were in the “national interest” and beyond. Likewise, the tragic death of Princess Diana.

Accordingly, we must support the media to research more and inform us all, as the court case evolves.

One must never forget that we, as South Africans, do not have a USA-jury based system. Instead, our courts are empowered – by law – to take the voices and mood of its citizens into account in matters before them.

This is such a valuable aspect of jurisprudence because it means that our laws and court judgments can mirror the times in which we live, and adjust to changing social conditions.

Accordingly, I would argue that the media must continue playing its key role in this matter, as it has done in so many other “public interest” stories. Marikana, Nkandla, state corruption and so much more springs to mind.

NOW –

Against these 3 issues I raise, I need to address the point I wish to make here.

As an activist seeking justice against the ‘bloody’ rhino and elephant poaching scourge across our African lands, I cannot help but think that roughly FOUR times as many women died at the hands of domestic violence last year (2012) in SA, when compared to poached rhino. (According to a recent report from the South African Institute of Race Relations.)

Most of South Africa’s citizenry are outraged at this brutal onslaught our rhinos face, BUT – and here’s the caveat – on a purely numeric basis, there should be FOUR times the civic outrage against this domestic violence that engulfs our nation. However – I’m not seeing such a barometer.

There are literally hundreds of NGO’s raising funds and being hyper-active in the development of rhino-security, but I don’t see the same level of commitment and consciousness for supporting a handful of NGO’s doing amazing work in this space of woman and child abuse, and specifically domestic violence. There’s a skewed sense of reality here. IMHO.

There is now no doubt that the Oscar Pistorius case is one of domestic violence that is certainly being proven to have been utterly uncalled for. The law will take its course in the our courts, but there is irrefutable evidence of a wrongful use of force that has resulted in an ugly and most tragic loss of life.

THAT is the crux of domestic violence.

To conclude –

I cannot, and will not, stay silent on such matters.

I will therefore lobby hard that WE – as South Africans – and a wider humanity – treat ANY and ALL violence in our communities with utter contempt and outrage, especially if it is against the most vulnerable of our nation. Our woman, our children, our poor and dispossessed, and our precious wildlife, for whom we have a custodial obligation to protect their rights.

We must all be very clear on this, and put away our hopes and dreams, and focus on a bloody and brutal reality of violent crime. And speak out more, strongly and actively, in any and every forum.

The fact is that Oscar Pistorius took a life for which he had no right whatsoever.

I don’t care whether he is a global sports star, or an impoverished drug- or liquor-induced man in a community of utter hopelessness. He MUST be treated equally before the law, or else we fail our constitution – dismally – by promoting more inequality in our land, which is precisely why the new SA was given birth 19 short years ago.

That is what protecting our maturing democracy is all about. Delivering a more caring, just and equal society to those that come after us.

And – in this process – should he be denied bail, I would support the state’s application 101%, as this is what I demand of other heinous crime perpetrators.

As for the NMMU graphic I’ve used above, I chose it because the image is fractured.  Oscar has undoubtedly shattered our fragile ‘rainbow’.

For Reeva and all the victims of abuse and violence, we must carefully put those rainbow jigsaw pieces back together again. For the light and sunshine of a brighter tomorrow. For all of us. And their collective memories.

They must not have died in vain.

Brian Sandberg
Durban. South Africa.
18 February 2013.

COPYRIGHT WARNING – 

This is my own opinion and neither the whole, nor any part thereof, may be used in any form of re-publication without my express written permission. This is a very sensitive matter and it requires due care.

This blog – in its format here – may be shared widely, but extracts will be considered illegal, without due permission.

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13 Responses to “Oscar Pistorius & Reeva Steenkamp – a shattered dream !”


  1. 1 deeceebee
    February 18, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Great post Brian, there’s nothing written here that I don’t agree with! ________________________________

  2. 2 A L Younger
    February 18, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Certainly gives one something to seriously think about!

  3. 3 Tilanie Meierhans
    February 18, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Absolutely agree with you Brian. People need to face the music when it comes to violence be that as you say against human or animal – our society needs to be re-educated by the looks of things – violence has become a norm which we need to eradicate sooner rather than later.

  4. February 18, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    such a well written piece expressing my sentiments exactly thank you Brian

  5. 5 Dorothy Scanlan
    February 19, 2013 at 5:59 am

    Excellent, thoughtful piece, Brian!

  6. 6 mark gadd
    February 19, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    thank you for these beautiful words and tribute to a wonderful soul. Our voices must be heard in our plea to put an end to children and women abuse. No real man or woman for that matter abuses another. Stand up SA and let our voices be heard in unity

  7. 7 Michele McCulley
    February 19, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    The law is that someone is innocent until proven guilty- not trial by chattering observers! He has been not been proven guilty yet. Whatever evidence there is, I have no doubt it will be presented in court and he will be rightly punished.
    The loss of his partner’s life as you say is nothing short of a tragedy and she deserves justice but until such time as this is proven, making a case for domestic violence is your agenda,assumption and conjecture!
    I watched and cheered Oscar at the Paralympics in London. I saw a man run with the dreams of a nation on his shoulders- and I was so proud of him and to be South African. He was also arrogant and pushy- but many great people are. What he achieved for paralympian sports is nothing short of phenomenal and no matter what he has done, that cannot be taken from him. Whatever the outcome of this case, his life as he knew it is over.
    If he is shown to be guilty so be it and let the cards fall where they will but until then I want to remember him running like the wind on blades that he made look foxy….is a stadium with the roar of a crowd behind him!

    • February 20, 2013 at 12:10 am

      Michele, thank you for your comments here.

      Firstly, our progressive legislation in South Africa allows us – as the so-called “chattering observers” – to interrogate the case, through the media, before, during and after the case, unlike British law. Our constitution gives equal weight to “freedom of speech” and “the presumption of innocence”. This was well-recognized at the International Judges Conference here in Johannesburg in 2004.

      Secondly, as much as you have seen him “running like the wind” in London, I’ve seen him twice in real-life, in major events, and have watched and cheered his spectacular athletics since early 2004. My published letter in SA’s premier business daily in August, during the Olympics, paid tribute to him, and was highly covered on social media in SA – http://www.bdlive.co.za/opinion/letters/2012/08/14/letter-hail-the-oscar-factor

      And thirdly – “domestic violence” covers a multitude of sins. Shooting someone who is unarmed in one’s house covers this, especially if that person is locked behind a door, and there is no proof whatsoever that the shooter’s life was under threat. I’ve debated this angle with many of his fans locally since my blog was published late yesterday morning. I respect you choose to await the case to be judge in court. I, too, will wait for the court to decide on the matter of guilt, in respect of his criminal charge that he faces. However, I stand by my position here entirely, especially after knowing more from today’s court records. I believe even more will become clear tomorrow when the Investigating Officer appears in court, or issues a statement to be read out in court.

    • 9 Kim Killeen
      February 20, 2013 at 5:40 pm

      I totally agree with you Michele. Let the law takes its course and if Oscar is proven guilty then so be it; until then no-one is entitled to pass judgement. The facts of the case are extremely sketchy and it will be months before we hear all of the evidence.

      • February 20, 2013 at 7:00 pm

        Kim, hi – and thank you for your post here.

        Perhaps I haven’t articulated my position as well as I should have, and therefore I might be misunderstood here.

        I am NOT prejudging guilt. I, too, am awaiting facts in court, and I defer completely to our courts to pronounce on the matter.

        However – and here’s my point of departure from many who share views similar to you …

        1. The cold, over-riding fact is that Oscar Pistorius killed someone in his own home. (Let’s leave the empathy over Reeva aside in this point.)

        2. The South African constitution puts the sanctity of life and equality of human rights at its very epicentre, arguably being claimed as one of the most progressive constitutions in the world.

        3. In terms of our laws – civil and criminal – no law may be in conflict with the fundamentals of the Constitution.

        4. In short, no one – neither a private citizen, nor a community, nor the government may deprive another of the right to life or the fundamentals freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights, except – and I use my own words here – in the case of exceptional circumstances.

        5. If we are to espouse true democratic values, whereby “we the people” vote in electees to make our legislation and create watchdog bodies over it – such as parliament, the executive and the judiciary – and they, in turn create agencies such as our police services and prosecuting authorities, then “we” (the people) must support those structures and processes since we’ve created them, directly and indirectly, and are duly responsible for their performance to execute our civic mandates.

        6. Now in all courts worldwide, the accused is referred to as the “defendant”, for good reason. He/she/they must defend, in a court of law, with both sides having equal rights to placing the facts before the judge(s)/magistrate(s) for their ultimate determination, their reasons for their actions.

        7. If we, as citizens of this land – and one would hope every other land, too – are to stand up to protect our fundamental rights then we are entitled to stand up and say that we find the taking of a life abhorrent and therefore hold the perpetrator(s) culpable and duly accountable to orderly society via a legitimate court of justice.

        8. In that forum, facts and arguments will emerge and decisions will be taken, and I would hope that – in the end – civil society, which is ultimately responsible for their respective judicial system – will abide by such a process.

        9. One must not forget that the state has an obligation to define the charges and prosecute accordingly to ensure justice is served. The presumption of innocence and equitability of rights is paramount. The case might be dismissed on the basis of the charges, or there might well be mitigating circumstances, or it could be an open-and-shut case. That we don’t know in this instance.

        Where I respectfully suggest you err is that we – as a South African civil society – must hold Mr. Pistorius strongly accountable and culpable for taking away a life, for whatever reason, and we must defer to our courts to deal with it “without fear or favour”, as per our Constitution.

        Such an act is not a part of the nation and global citizenry that we all wish to belong to, or become a part of, one day.

        There is a fine line between guilt on one or more charges and general culpability.

        I trust you may respect my position on this matter.

  8. 11 Ricci Lee Hertzberg
    February 20, 2013 at 2:05 am

    I fully agree with above statement as this will set a precident should Oscar not get bail! I will support it 101% as this is an act of violence, which many in our country do and get away with it! Valentines day will always be a Reeva day!
    All I can say to violence against women and children is ENOUGH is ENOUGH!
    Reeva was an amzing and beautiful soul who had so much going for her and certainly did not deserve to die in such a brutal way!

  9. February 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Hi Brian,
    My response was as a result of your comment ” There is no doubt that the Oscar Pistorius case is one of domestic violence that has been proven…. uncalled for”. You present this statement as fact, which currently it is not.
    I am a practising psychotherapist, specialising in couple work and sexual difficulties – domestic violence and violence towards women is part of my remit. This problem is extremely complicated and cannot be resolved by singling out unresolved cases because they appear to conform to a DV agenda. I have no issue with your passionate statements about the plight of women – in the UK, 2 women die every week from DV related incidents. I suspect the statistics globally are probably similar if not worse. That this should be addressed at the highest levels is something I share your passion for, but using this as yet unresolved case to do so, I suspect muddies the water than clarifies it.
    As a regular speaker on the BBC, this issue needs a far broader strategy. Take pornography for instance: in it, women are not only abused, physically and emotionally – they act as if poor treatment were desirable and appealing. Yet, as a society, we don’t tackle the porn problem, instead we suggest there is a freedom to choose whether we watch it or not….i.o.w. we condone it. These are mixed messages…. I have not yet seen a couple who have not been affected by a subtle dalliance with their baser human instincts….If indeed ‘Enough is Enough is Enough’, we all need to take responsibility for the part we play in condoning a violent discourse toward women – and change that first.

  10. February 21, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Any day a MAN stand up and speaks out in defence of women and children is a very good day for me! Thank you Brian.


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