SO, WHAT to say about the story of the hour? Freeze this frame, Agatha Christie style. A beautiful woman dies in the home of arguably the country’s most famous athlete. She has been shot more than once while hiding in a bathroom, a cricket bat spattered with blood lies on the bedroom floor. The only other person in the house, the athlete, is arrested and taken to court and readied for a charge of premeditated murder.
He strongly denies the premeditated bit, clearly oblivious to how ridiculous this might sound. It does not take long to meditate on anything.
But he is rich and has some powerful lawyers working for him, and a former editor of The Sun, in England, is doing his PR. Their job is to spin their client out of very deep trouble into something more like normal trouble. He was drunk, or high on steroids, we will hear. The cricket bat slipped from his hands as he was demonstrating how to hook a bouncer. The shots were, thought the athlete, aimed at a burglar.
Hang on, though. I also live in South Africa and I’m also scared of burglars and I don’t live in a gated estate. But I don’t have a gun, nor a machine gun. And I doubt I could get a licence even if I asked. How did the athlete get his gun licences? The guns were hardly any secret — more than once he bragged about them in the media. Perhaps that is a way of hiding facts from the South African Police Service.
On Twitter, where the media and the middle classes do their gossiping and arguing nowadays, you would have invited the wrath of the gods had you criticised young Oscar, before and even after the murder in his bedroom. He is untouchable, deserving of all the gifts that have been showered upon him because of the way he has been able to deal with the gifts that were taken away from him at birth. You would have had to ignore all the signs (had you been interested in any way in the athlete) of madness — his petulance, his rage, the warnings from ex-girlfriends, his inability to lose gracefully, his diet (or the lack of one), the over-the-top lifestyle.
And the guns...
Once in the dock, he cried. Presumably that would have been for himself and all that he has lost — from his mother at 15 to his fame and life now. It is all over. Of course, we cannot proclaim him guilty. There has to be a proper trial for that.
But if the very detailed reporting mainly in the Afrikaans press is true, the dead woman, Reeva Steenkamp, the athlete’s girlfriend, was assaulted with not one but two weapons. It looks bad for Oscar, our athlete, though we have to remember the OJ Simpson trial and remember that a good lawyer can conjure miracles. We don’t have juries here in South Africa so that might be difficult. But not impossible. Nevertheless, the ordeal the athlete is now entering will completely eclipse the huge disability with which he was born.
Maybe there are some lessons in all of this for us as a nation. We are none of us perfect; far from it. But, especially as a figure to whom public approbation is financially important, you cannot lead two lives forever.
President Jacob Zuma is a prime example of someone who has let down the people (us) whose taxes pay him to lead us by example. Oscar Pistorius lived off endorsements created by public affection for him.
We should be more careful about the people in whom we invest our hearts.
I CAN’T wait to hear what plans Mamphela Ramphele has to announce on Monday. I hope she goes all the way and announces that she’s starting a political party, but I worry that she might stop short and go for some sort of "social movement" instead. She has a lot of detractors (most of whom know nothing about her) but let me repeat a version of what I said about her last week. Yes, sure, she is arch and cutting, but she is also infinitely generous and kind. During the struggle she achieved huge things for the communities she worked in and I frankly doubt the Black Consciousness movement, such as it was at the time, could have functioned without her. She will do things to the Zuma ANC that Helen Zille and the DA just, for now, cannot. And I’ll tell you something for free. If she does form a party, the ANC will absolutely k*k its pants.