Pistorius release touches a nerve in country scarred by violence against women

By Thando Hlophe and Sisipho Skweyiya

PRETORIA (Reuters) – South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius’ release on parole on Friday, nearly 11 years after he shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, provoked a raw response in a country scarred by violence against women.

Pistorius, who has said repeatedly that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder, spent about eight and a half years in jail as well as seven months under house arrest, but for many that is not enough.

An average of around 12 women are murdered in South Africa every day, with more than 42,000 rapes recorded in the year to March 2023, police data show.

“Considering that I’m a woman in the rape capital of the world, I’m really disheartened,” Bulelwa Adonis, spokesperson for non-profit organisation Women For Change, told Reuters hours after Pistorius was released.

“It seems like there is a normalised mentality of leniency when it comes towards predators, we are talking about an individual that took a life,” she added.

Pistorius was originally only given a five-year jail term in 2014 for culpable homicide, before prosecutors appealed against that ruling and it was upgraded to murder. He was granted parole after serving more than half of what was eventually a 13-year-five-month sentence.

Reeva Steenkamp’s mother June said on Friday that Pistorius’ parole conditions, which include courses on gender-based violence, sent out a clear message that violence against women was taken seriously.

But some residents of the capital Pretoria, where Pistorius killed Steenkamp and was imprisoned, said they disagreed.

23-year-old Siphiwe Moola said his release showed “justice doesn’t serve us as women”. A man who wished to remain anonymous said Pistorius should go back to jail. “We do not want him around, he is going to kill our wives and sisters,” he said.

Others felt Pistorius should be given a second chance but were still wary.

“I don’t think women will feel safe around him because history tends to repeat itself,” said Keitumetse Mamphekgo, another Pretoria resident aged 19. “What are the chances of him doing it again?”

(Reporting by Thando Hlophe and Sisipho Skweyiya; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by Joe Bavier, William Maclean)