Is justice being served in the land of Oz?
Tattooed on the back of Oscar Pistorius, a man known to millions as the Blade Runner, is the simple statement, ” I do not run like a man running aimlessly.” The irony of that tattoo is palpable as the glorified paralympian is now in the run of his life … or is he?
Pistorius was recently granted the ability to travel outside of South Africa to resume running in international competition, yet back home in South Africa, he faces a charge of premeditated murder in the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
Pistorius first caught my attention last summer as I was quite taken with his seemingly meteoric rise as the “man who can run but does not have legs.” He was an enigma as the first man with no legs to qualify for an Olympic team, and his story was a focal point of the Summer Olympics in London.
His forte is the individual 400 meters as well as the 4×4 400 relay team. Oz, as he is known within the running community, failed to advance, but his sheer presence on the team was one that brought tears to my eyes. Media coverage was ever present; no one could have predicted the next unthinkable chapter that was on the horizon.
Reeva Steenkemp truly seemed to have it all. She was stunningly beautiful, athletic, well-educated, and had recently found her calling in the world of sports media. She was reportedly an extremely approachable and grounded individual even with such an impressive pedigree. It was easy to see why Pistorius was so taken by her sheer presence. A love affair began in November 2012. In the eyes of South Africans, a superpower couple had emerged.
Unfortunately the love story played out like a Greek tragedy as Pistorius’s lover of three months was murdered by Pistorius in his mansion when he fatally shot her four times through the bathroom door on St. Valentine’s Day.
Pistorius is due back in court on June 4th and until then, he is free on bail. Yet what bothers me is the presiding judge has now allowed Pistorius the uninhibited ability to travel outside of South Africa for travel and competition purposes. Pistorius’s passport and travel documents will be held by the court while the blade runner is in South Africa and an itinerary must be given to the court for approval one week prior to departure. Pistorius must return his passport to the courts within 24 hours of his return back to his native South Africa.
But overall, Pistorius seems free to travel anywhere he wants. Why the leniency? The judicial system of South Africa, quite simply, is a rather archaic legal system.
he right to own a gun is not in the governing bylaws of South Africa, yet guns are part of the South African culture. Few trust the police and the rainbow nation that Desmond Tutu had envisioned has not been fully embraced. Home invasions are rampant and yet it has been widely said that South Africans often do not report robberies as they do not trust the police. Many homeowners in South Africa own more than one gun, as was the case with Pistorius .
This decision to allow Pistorius, who admitted to firing the fatal shots at Steenkamp but insists he did not realize it was her and thought the victim was an intruder, defies logic and reeks of favoritism. In a country where apartheid once was the norm and one class seemed to be favored over the other, perhaps this ideology is now being seen on a different viewing stage.
One of the definitions of apartheid is “the status of being apart.’ The word resonates with me as we are seeing a form of “apartheid favoritism” when it comes to a famous athlete. There is a transparency here that is evident; Pistorius is being dealt with differently in the eyes of the court for one who is being charged with not just murder, but premeditated murder.
It seems the legal system is playing with a smoking gun in this case and is blinded by Pistorius’ star power and presence in the courtroom. The subliminal message that is being sent here is that athletes of Pistorius’s status can and will be treated differently even if the alleged crime is murder (think O.J. Simpson or Rae Carruth).
Are athletes above the law? Time will time as this tragic tale unfolds in a court of justice. The world shall be watching the Blade Runner with a keen intensity, but this time, the setting will not be on the track but, sadly, a courtroom.