Mixed reactions over Pistorius judgment
Daisy Jeremani Gender Editor
AS the sentencing date for South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius draws near after his recent conviction for culpable homicide over the fatal shooting of his girlfriend, local women’s groups are hoping for a stiff sentence. Representatives of the groups said in separate interviews yesterday that a tough sentence would be good as it could help deter would-be offenders. He will be sentenced on October 13 after his conviction on September 12.
In the trial for the shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a South African judge, Thokozile Masipa found Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide, but not guilty of the more serious charge of murder.
The dramatic clearance of Pistorius of murder of Steenkamp, prompted widespread disbelief, not only across his country South Africa, but around the world as well, Zimbabwe included.
The national director of Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, Chiedza Simbo, said they respected the decision of the courts and were hoping for a stiffer sentence.
“We had hoped for a murder sentence, because the circumstances surrounding the case showed intention. We hope that come October 13 the sentence would be a jail term, which is not less than 10 years,” she said.
Simbo expressed hope that the sentencing would not give the impression that people can commit murder and get away with it.
She also called on women to be circumspect when dealing with abusive spouses or lovers so that they would not end up in the situation that Steenkamp found herself in.
Girl child rights activist Nyaradzo Mashaya from Tag a Life said the decision to find Pistorius not guilty of murder was a hard for her to take.
“They say justice was served through judge Masipa’s decision, but the activist in me finds such a judgment hard to take,” she said.
The same shock was shared by many South Africans, as they had expected a tougher decision from a female judge, who has been outspoken on violence against women and handed down hefty sentences for such crimes.
Contrary to what she was known for Justice Masipa ruled out a murder conviction for the double-amputee Pistorius in the shooting to death of his girlfriend, but said he was negligent and convicted him of culpable homicide.
This drew the ire of some of South Africa’s top lawyers who expressed fear that Pistorius’ acquittal of murder could make it easier for men to kill their partners and escape justice.
Local lawyer and MP for Harare West, Jessie Majome said the acquittal was a major setback in the struggle to protect women who are killed in intimate relationships.
Majome said armed with the same evidence and facts Justice Masipa could have arrived at a different judgment either murder with actual intent or at the very least constructive intent, but she decided otherwise.
“Actually all the facts point to the fact that Oscar killed a human being — whatever form of human being.
He fired his gun repeatedly, four times, the level of determination is so scary, but the judge reached a decision that it is negligence.
“It’s difficult to believe. Criminal law puts weight on the value of life, life is sacrosanct and one should do everything possible to prevent its loss,” Majome said.
She said she feels that the judge was probably swayed by Pistorius’ disability and as a result gave him a judgment that was undue to him.
“Oscar executed a perfect murder and came out clean. My only hope is that the state will appeal this ruling. This is troubling beyond measure. It means women are murdered in intimate places where there are no witnesses and perpetrators can walk.
“It will now be possible for men to orchestrate the same scenes and get away with it. This will make it difficult even to use circumstantial evidence in cases of rape and sexual harassment. Circumstantial evidence is evidence,” Majome said.
While much of the reactions to the lesser conviction of the athlete was that of surprised anger, some lawyers trusted the judgment Masipa gave, saying it was difficult to turn a blind eye on facts that were presented in court.
“This judgment is hard to take in, I must say. But facts are stubborn, and I believe the judge delivered an impartial judgment,” said a local lawyer who could not be identified for professional reasons.