UPDATE: Carl Pistorius, Oscar’s brother, is facing homicide charges for a motor vehicle accident that killed a woman in 2008.
An appeal to fear in a country more gun-loving and divided than our own may be a winning defense. Cathal Kelly in the Toronto Star explains why Oscar Pistorius might become South Africa’s O.J.
On my first night in Johannesburg, I accidentally shut the rape door behind me, trapping myself in the bedroom.
Most middle-class homes in South Africa feature “rape doors” — sliding jail doors that compartmentalize a house so that no intruder can get at you if — and this is the phrase commonly used — “your perimeter is breached.”
It was funny for a minute. Then I realized that since all the windows in the bedroom were barred, I had no way to get out in case of a fire.
We phoned the couple we’d rented our pleasant bungalow from and explained the situation. The owner laughed a long time, and then said he’d be by in the morning to release me.
South Africans are afraid of many things. Fire ranks very low on the list.
Cathal Kelly makes a convincing case that politics may prevent justice for Reeva Steenkamp.
South Africa’s culture of fear feeds a ‘fear industry’ that markets guns, security systems and gated ‘communities’…
Gated communities, often called “golf estates,” are enclosed spaces protected by a number of security measures such as electrified fences, razor wire, patrols and enhanced biometric and technological measures that continue to be developed by a “fear industry” that flourishes in South Africa. This fear industry emboldens a fear culture that is obsessed with crime and its avoidance. While we may see this as an irrational fear, as the majority of crime occurs in concentrated spaces among the black population (not unlike in the United States), one has to respect the nature of crime in South Africa. Despite a murder rate that has begun to decline in recent years, South Africa still has crime levels that are astronomical, with a homicide rate approximately four times that of most industrialized nations. Still, it is unlikely that this type of crime would have touched people like Oscar Pistorius or Reeva Steenkamp, especially within a gated community.
The assertion that Mr. Pistorius believed there was an intruder in his home may seem unlikely in a secured home in the middle of a gated community, but it is a perception that many in South Africa will relate to. A segment of the South African psyche will understand the fear and the reaction allegedly spurred by it, despite any evidence to the contrary.
In the US we have a gun industry that is so aggressive in marketing guns that no toll of accidents and murders will budge them from their message– guns make you safe, more guns are better, you’re never safe enough.
Peace is not won by finally building high enough walls or buying big enough guns. South Africa can decide that Reeva Steenkamp is an acceptable loss for preserving their way of life, or to examine its culture of violence that her death not be in vain. There are 20 children gone in our own country who should not be forgotten.