Wednesday 22 November 2017

Sympathy for Pistorius: Opinion divided in his home town of Pretoria

Jason Kennedy

Jason Kennedy

There is no clamour or furore outside the High Court building in Pretoria, South Africa. The brown, intimidating building is passed by several people who don’t give it a second glance. It’s hard to imagine that in a few short days, the eyes of the world will be watching the goings on inside this building, as The State vs Oscar Pistorius resumes after its second adjournment.

While there is little sympathy for Pistorius in most parts of South Africa, opinion is split in Pretoria. In his home town, there are still people who blindly support him and deny any guilt on his part. One person told me he should be spared any form of a prison sentence and the trial thrown out.

South African online newspaper the Daily Maverick has extensively covered the court case and any article which shows Pistorius in a negative light irks the Blade Runner's fans, according to the website's CEO Styli Charalambous.

"We've seen comments and social media feedback from a particular group of people we like to call Pistoriuns. They are these hardened and hardened supporters of Oscar, who believe in his innocence not matter what," he said.

"We'd probably be able to put them in a very specific geographic location around Pretoria and are generally Afrikaans people who are hardened supporters of Oscar. He is a local. He was an international hero.

"There are people out there who are blindly supporting the guy who are beyond the friend and family support."

This is evident during Freedom Day celebrations beside Pretoria's Union Buildings. As the country celebrated 20 years of democracy, it's fascinating to see the split in attitudes towards their fallen local hero.

Sympathy for Pistorius: How South Africa is reacting to the trial (Generated thumbnail)

"Oscar Pistorius is a wonderful person. He has done great for this country," one man told me.

"Even though he's such a wonderful person, everyone must be judged according to the law."

His friend had a slight difference of opinion. She said that people need to stand up for women's rights in South Africa and he should be thrown in jail. Another said he has represented the country well and claimed his total innocence.

"He went back and forth with his version of events. He deserves to be in jail," another said.

All these people may have their own opinions on Pistorius and his innocence, but one person and one person alone with decide the blade runner’s fate: Judge Thokozile Masipa.

For more than 40 years, there has been no jury system in South Africa and trials were heard by judges alone. This was a law created during Apartheid , when it was often too hard to find willing jurors who didn't bear any form of racial discrimination.

"This trial is kind of like the World Cup of law," Mr Charalambous said.

"We've put on our best face. We've got our best prosecutors. We've got our best defence attorneys and judge on the case. It's important that South Africa portrays to the world that we're not this banana republic down at the bottom of Africa, where the law doesn't still have a place."

Irish Independent

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