Voice of America (Washington, DC)

15 February 2014

South Africa: Calls for Tough Justice in Pistorius Case

Photo: Werner Beukes/Sapa
Paralympian, Oscar Pistorius in court.

The first anniversary of the shooting death of South African model Reeva Steenkamp at the hands of her boyfriend, Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, has sparked protests and calls for tougher justice in cases of violence against women.

The 29-year-old model and reality TV star was shot three times while in Pistorius' bathroom in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine's Day 2013.

The double-amputee sprinter, known as "Blade Runner," told a court last year he shot Steenkamp when he mistook her for an intruder. His trial is set to begin March 3.

When it does, a vocal group of South Africans want the legal system to send a message.

"We wish that all cases could be speedily resolved, conviction rates to be very high and that all those that even think of abusing a woman would think twice before they can even abuse or think of doing anything wrong against a woman or a child here in [the South African province of] Gauteng," said Faith Mazibuko, a member of the Executive Council of Safety and Security.

Pistorius on Friday issued his first public statement about Steenkamp's death.

In a message posted on his Twitter account, he said he would carry the "complete trauma of that day" for the rest of his life.

He faces a possible life sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison before the chance of parole if he is convicted of premeditated murder in Steenkamp's killing.

The 27-year-old also faces other firearms-related charges. A judge will deliver a verdict. There is no trial by jury in South Africa.

Protesters Friday demanded the once-revered sports hero face transparent justice.

"We want them to ensure that the justice system happens where everybody can see it. They should not make it behind closed doors even if it's legal," said Patricia Chueu of the African National Congress Women's League.

Pistorius was the first double-amputee to run at the world championships and the Olympics.

Mark Snowiss

Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter. He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus.

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InFocus

South Africa: Pistorius's Trial to Be Televised

Paralympian, Oscar Pistorius in court.

The North Gauteng High Court has ruled that Paralympian Oscar Pistorius's murder trial will be broadcast, with conditions. Read more »