Pistorius shooting highlights South Africa’s crime problem

The country's crime rates have declined in recent years, but remain frighteningly high by international standards

Topics: GlobalPost, South Africa, Oscar Pistorius, Valentines Day, Gun Violence, ,

Pistorius shooting highlights South Africa's crime problemOlympic athlete Oscar Pistorius leaves the Boschkop police station, east of Pretoria, South Africa. (Credit: AP/Chris Collingridge)
This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

Global Post
 PRETORIA, South Africa — The world once cheered Oscar Pistorius, the “Blade Runner,” a double amputee whose gritty determination saw him become the first Olympian to race on twin carbon fiber blades.

But on Valentine’s Day, it all went disturbingly wrong.

South Africans awoke to the news that their country’s most famous sportsman had been charged with murder, accused of shooting and killing his gorgeous model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The motive behind 29-year-old Steenkamp’s murder is still unclear. Police have confirmed that a 9mm revolver recovered at the scene was registered to Pistorius, who in past interviews had spoken of his love of firearms and once tweeted a photo of himself visiting a shooting range.

Pistorius, 26, spent the night in a Pretoria jail cell, and on Friday will appear in court for a bail hearing. Lawyer Kenny Oldwage said at the police station that Pistorius “is emotional, but he is keeping up.”

The Blade Runner’s sponsors are already pulling ads, including one for Nike in which he describes himself as “the bullet in the chamber,” and is pictured bursting out of a starting block.

South Africans appear bewildered by this turn of events. The country has in recent weeks been gripped by national soul-searching over endemic violence in society, and in particular by high rates of violence and rape against women.

“Once the South African hero, Oscar is now just another South African tragedy,” said Sarah Britten, a South African blogger.

You Might Also Like

While there were early reports that Pistorius may have shot his girlfriend multiple times because he thought she was a burglar, police have firmly dismissed the rumor.

Brigadier Denise Beukes, a spokesperson for the national police, told reporters outside the luxury golf estate where Pistorius lives that there was no sign of forced entry, and only two people were on the premises — the resident, and the deceased.

Police had been to Pistorius’ house before to deal with “allegations of a domestic nature,” Beukes added.

Adele Kirsten, a spokesperson for Gun Free South Africa, said women in this country face a particular threat of gun violence in the home, and are most likely to be killed by someone they know.

“One of the keys is access to weapons,” she said. “So if you look at Oscar, it is clear he had easy access to guns.”

“People get angry, people get in fights, but if you have a gun, it can be lethal.”

While South Africa requires strict background checks before guns may be purchased, and a follow-up check after five years, enforcement can be patchy.

Kirsten said she hoped the death of Steenkamp would be a “defining moment” for South Africa, one that would lead to a ban on hand guns.

“But I’m not sure,” she added. “We are so inured to violence. This happens daily and it doesn’t get coverage. This is all because a celebrity is involved.”

Violent crime rates in South Africa have declined in recent years, but still remain frighteningly high by international standards. Gun ownership of both illegal and registered weapons remains common, and many South Africans own weapons for protection.

An interviewer last year wrote that Pistorius, who lives in a high-security gated community, slept with a revolver by his bed, a baseball bat behind his door and a machine gun by the window.

Examples of tragic gun deaths, a number of which involving the country’s sports stars, are all too common.

In September, former world heavyweight boxing champion Corrie Sanders was shot and killed when robbers stormed a restaurant near Pretoria during a family birthday party and began firing at random.

That same week, a former Olympic hurdler was shot in the shoulder during a robbery at her family farm northwest of Johannesburg.

The country’s Olympic committee said it has been “inundated” with inquiries about the shooting at Pistorius’ home, but was “in no position to comment.”

Just hours before her death, Steenkamp tweeted messages urging her followers to stand up against abuse of women. She had also tweeted about 17-year-old Anene Booysen, whose recent gang rape and murder in the Western Cape town of Bredasdorp outraged the country.

“What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???” she wrote on Twitter, later adding: “It should be a day of love for everyone.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>