Gunning for justice in South Africa


DESPITE being a month away from the 2014 elections, South Africa is currently caught up in legal courtroom wrangles as opposed to supposedly edifying election debates as the campaign trail to the May 7 elections heats up.

It would appear legal disputes are hogging the spotlight for attention as SA Decides fades into the background.

The Oscar Pistorius trial resumed this week after a one-week break.

This week we have been exposed to the kind of dramatic court scenes we used to witness in films like Carson’s Law, LA Law and more recently Boston Legal.

This has been truly riveting stuff.

At first I thought Barry Roux; the defence attorney for the “accused” was a bulldog when he viciously cross-examined some State witnesses as the trial unfolded.

However, on second thought I am made to think that he’s mild compared to the astuteness and abrasiveness of his opponent, State prosecutor Gerrie Nel.

This is certainly better than any script legal film I have watched.

Every day is a titillating display of his legal prowess as he tears Oscar’s testimony apart. Slowly unfolding outside this court room drama is the continuing saga of Shrien Dewani.

Finally after three years of fighting extradition calls he has finally landed on South African soil. Never mind that it cost the State R2,9 million to extradite and land him.

You wish he could have been shipped than have him gobble up all that tax payers’ money. It almost seems that being a criminal deserves five-star treatment.

However, it is believed he had to be chartered because he is in a precarious medical situation, suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Pistorius complained of the same ailment when he took to the stand.

He claimed to be subsisting on anti-depressants and has trouble sleeping at night.

I reckon these two gentlemen need to get together and form a support group entitled “Surviving Partners of Murdered Wives and Girlfriends”.

They both have a lot in common. Both Shrien and Pistorius are men of privilege and are successful in their chosen fields.
Shrien is an astute businessman whereas Pistorius is a celebrated sportsperson.

Their partners were born in the 80s; if they were alive today Anni Dewani would be 32 and Reeva Steenkamp would be 33.

Both women were in their prime whose lives were snuffed out violently.

I think this is what makes these cases fascinating. We often think that wealth and prestige elevates us above the law to which ordinary men and women often succumb.

Killing someone cannot be easy. I often hear soldiers who have killed while on tour of duty lamenting that the guilt stays with them.

They sometimes say they have lingering nightmares of those they killed.

Now if this is the kind of emotion evoked by killing a stranger in some war zone, imagine what it must be like to kill someone you knew intimately?

The Medical Research Council of South Africa concluded in a study (2014) that femicide was the leading cause of death among female homicides.

Which is why crimes of this nature are unsettling.

Unlike Pistorius, who claims to have accidentally shot and killed Reeva after mistaking her for an intruder in his home Dewani on the other hand is said to have planned and orchestrated the murder of his bride, Anni, a week into their honeymoon in Cape Town.

Dewani claims they were kidnapped at Gunpoint in Gugulethu.

It makes one wonder what business a honeymooning couple would have in Gugulethu when they could have been lounging in Camps Bay or Sea Point.

Then again one could argue they wanted to experience township life and it’s ambience.

After the alleged kidnapping Dewani was released unharmed yet the car was discovered a day later with the dead body of his wife.

Although Dewani denied any involvement in the murder, three men who allegedly conspired with him have been tried and convicted. We will have to await and see what the fate of Dewani would be.

Hopefully justice for Anni may finally be realised.

So we will wait till May 12 when it will be established whether he is fit for trial.

In the meantime he languishes in Valkenburg Pyschiatric Unit while his counterpart Pistorius weeps in the witness stand.

 Sue Nyathi is the author of the novel The Polygamist. You can follow her on Twitter @SueNyathi