In the early hours of February 14, 2013, pathos-prone South Africa had to say goodbye to one of its most popular heroic stories. Her young Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius had achieved fame a few months earlier when he became the first track and field athlete with a lower leg amputation to take part in the Olympic Games. For this he was hailed as one who triumphed against all odds and odds, a reminder of the ideals of a country ravaged by scandal and mismanagement.
That narrative came to an abrupt end when Pistorius fatally shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. A court spectacle followed and finally the conviction for manslaughter. Pistorius, who protested having mistook Steenkamp for a burglar, was ultimately sentenced to 15 years in prison. The minimum sentence in South Africa for this crime.
Now, a good ten years after the fact, the nation is watching with interest whether the rest of Pistorius' detention will be suspended under conditions of probation. Pistorius will be heard before a parole board at his prison in Pretoria this Friday. The former track and field athlete, now 36 years old, has served more than half of his sentence, the requirement for the application.
"He meets all the requirements, there is no obstacle," says Julian Knight, Pistorius' lawyer, to WELT, "but the decision is made by the committee." The assessment of the von Steenkamp family, represented by their mother June, is also taken into account becomes. In the past, family members had repeatedly spoken out against early release from prison because Pistorius admitted the crime in conversations, but persistently denied an intention, as he had done in court.
This probably contributed to the fact that the hearing was only scheduled with some delay, as it would have been legally possible a year ago. "If he had told me the truth, he would be a free man now and I would have let the law pass over his parole," Steenkamp's father, Barry, told the British tabloid Daily Mail after authorities held a meeting in prison last year arranged, "but I wasted my time. He's a killer. He should stay in prison.”
The residents of South Africa are divided on the case. The civil rights group Women For Change publicly opposed the release, but some on Twitter also voiced support for him. Favorable details about the fallen sports star's behavior in prison have repeatedly leaked out over the years. It is public that the former professional athlete gives other prisoners weight-lifting tips, became a member of a book club and planted vegetables for needy children. His family also donated a piano and a guitar to the prison.
Pistorius himself spent his fortune in the millions on the process. But the family is considered wealthy. His uncle Arnold Pistorius has already indicated that Pistorius will have a job offer from a company if his sentence is suspended. "He will go to work - from 8am to 5pm." South African media suggested it was one of the family's businesses. It is also assumed that Pistorius would spend any house arrest at his uncle's estate.
It is clear that the South African correctional service is currently under particular scrutiny. In recent weeks, news site Ground Up has published several articles suggesting that in May 2022, convicted murderer and rapist Thabo Bester's escape from a Bloemfontein prison was covered up. At that time, a charred corpse was found in his burned-out cell, and the case was hastily registered as a suicide. It was only thanks to media releases that it became public that the body's DNA did not match that of Bester's, and the cause of death was apparently a blunt head injury. A manhunt is now underway for Bester.
Probably also because of this scandal, the Ministry of Justice is trying to comply with the regulations at the Pistorius hearing, which was accompanied by enormous public interest. "Please note that parole board decisions are not communicated immediately," it said in advance. After the deliberations have been completed, “the parties concerned must first be informed of the decision”. The Ministry could not set a time frame for such a procedure.