David Bowie — Giving Space To Oddity

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“I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human. I felt very puny as a human. I thought, “Fuck that. I want to be a superhuman.” David Bowie

Like so many kids in their early teens, I felt out of place and at odds with myself when I grew up: I lacked the masculinity expected of me from my environment, being a skinny sensitive introverted boy who liked to play “house” with my stepsisters — making doll’s dresses and staging mock weddings.

I made a beautiful bride.

At the time, unlike the other boys, I also showed no signs of reaching puberty and resorted to using a black marker pen to draw chest hair on my chest… and everywhere else my “shame” had to be covered.

My self-expression led to ridicule and apart from spending time with the few friends I had, I mostly kept myself to myself.

It was September 1987. I was 12 years old and growing up in Pretoria — a highly conservative and religious city, in South Africa. My step parents restricted my “television time” to 2 hours a week and classical music was the only music I was allowed to listen to. They “meant well”.

That spring, hidden in a box and covered with dust, I found a cassette tape of Elvis Presley’s 1968 Las Vegas comeback concert. When I heard the King’s music for the first time, Heartbreak Hotel, Jailhouse Rock, Wooden Heart, Teddy Bear, Are You Lonesome Tonight… a hunger, which I wasn’t even aware of, stirred inside me. I wanted to know more about this man! This music! And the outrage it caused.

Two problems: First, my stepdad’s stuff was out of bounds, so getting caught with the tape meant big trouble. Second, “Rock & Roll was the devil’s creation”, and listening to it was as good as bringing Satan himself into our home. (Goodness knows why my stepdad held onto that tape…)

My safe haven and key to escaping home life was our local library. I saved my pocket money and took a bus trip to the library every Saturday — at the great expense of 50 cents a trip. Fortunately, being an “academic”, my stepmom encouraged those library visits: “If the boy keeps himself busy with books, at least he is learning something and stays out of trouble.”

Little did she know. The library gave me access to an entire archive of books and vinyl records of the “devil’s music”. A whole new world opened up to me — not just Elvis but also Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ritchie Valens, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and many more.

Like the teenagers of the 1950’s, Rock & Roll revolutionised me albeit in 1987. And once my lust for 50s Rocks & Roll was exhausted, with a lot of catching up to do, I headed for the next three decades.

The Complete Encyclopaedia of Rock & Roll became an essential point of reference that introduced me to Brit Pop, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Young…  and David Bowie!

“The boy” found himself in the good company of  artists, poets, rebels, free-thinkers and creative geniuses.

A blessing.

When I saw the news of David Bowie’s passing, while running on a treadmill in Central London, 6am in the morning, I flush of sadness fell over me.

I remembered my younger self — a barefooted 12 year old boy completely overwhelmed by his isolation in an unkind environment — sitting on the library floor in his khaki shorts and yellow checked shirt, staring at a picture of David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album cover: flash across his face, flaming red hair, pale skin, ruby lips, eye shadow and a humble subtle bow of his head: Undiscovered greatness.

He was sexy. Weird. Man-woman. Crazy. Clever. Poetic. Dark. Alien. Familiar. Exotic. Enigmatic. Mysterious. Angry. Kind. Provocative. Wicked. Amazing.

A man in lycra? Sequin? Glitter? Make up? Wigs? Extravagant and beautiful? Boys can do that?

“Thank God!” I thought. “There is hope for me. There are others like me. I can escape this place.”

Until yesterday, 11 January 2016, the day the world learned that the Star Man has returned to where he belongs, I did not realise the impact of that first image of David Bowie I laid eyes on, had on me. It was the first sign of a glimmer of hope.

That image opened the door for me to a journey of self-discovery, self-acceptance and self-expression that I hope never ends.

Of course, there is his music, his acting and his tremendous and impeccable sense of style. How could anyone ever ignore these Bowie trademarks? “Fame, makes a man take things over. Fame, lets him loose, hard to swallow…”

He will be remembered and admired for so many things and rightfully so. There is no measure to his monumental artistic accomplishments and contributions.

For me David Bowie was a lifeline — the man who gave space to oddity and who showed the world, in the multitude of all his exquisite manifestations, the importance and power of owning who you are.

“And the shame was on the other side. Oh we can beat them, forever and ever. Then we could be Heroes, just for one day…” Heroes, Dawid Bowie

AladdinSane

Aladdin Sane – David Bowie, 1973

 

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From Rebel To Oppressor, Demon To Survivor: 90 Years Of Afrikaans

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“A riot is the language of the unheard.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr. —

Today, my mother tongue, Afrikaans, celebrates 90 years as an official language. Suffice to say it is one of the youngest languages in the world… and one of the most vibrant, beautiful and poetic.

Looking back at its history, there can be no doubt that it has always been (and still is) at the helm of political and social change in South Africa — sometimes serving as a tool of transformation and sometimes standing in the frontline of cultural conflicts.

The linguist Paul Roberge suggested the earliest ‘truly Afrikaans’ texts are doggerel verse from 1795. Afrikaans found its roots in Malagasys (Cape Malays) culture as well as the Khoi, San, and Bantu peoples (native tribes to Southern Africa) who lived in the Cape Colony. It was spoken as a stripped down version and gradual divergence from European Dutch dialects and because of its humble origin, imperial Europeans referred to it as a “kitchen language” or peasant language — spoken only in the homes of native tribes, slaves and servants.

The workers and slaves (under Dutch rule in the Western Cape), who contributed to the development of Afrikaans, were African creole people and in the early 18th century they were the first to call themselves Afrikaner (from Africa). So, historically, Afrikaners were not Caucasian, making it rather extraordinary that, a few hundred years later, Afrikaans played a key role in establishing the Apartheid government and fuelling racism in South Africa.

Around 1815, Afrikaans began to replace Malay as the language of instruction in Muslim schools in South Africa, written with the Arabic alphabet, and the first Arabic Afrikaans Islamic instruction book was published in 1877.

Only much later, in the second half of the 19th century, did the Boers (Caucasians descendants from Holland and France) adopt the attribution Afrikaner as well as the language. The Boers used Afrikaans as a form of resistance against British rule — who took over from the Dutch in the Cape Colony. This “new” language offered an opportunity of a new identity and independence from British colonialism.

Striving for their freedom, the Boers left the Cape Colony in the 19th century and settled in the Orange Free State and Transvaal to escape British rule and extract themselves from the constant border wars between the British imperial government and the local tribes on the eastern frontier. This exodus is known as The Great Trek, in which the Boers took their families and trekked into the unknown with nothing more than a few cattle, chicken and other livestock, an ox waggon and whatever little provisions and possessions they could take with them.

Afrikaans became the Boer’s language of choice and among the Boers English was referred to as the language of “the oppressor”, and it was considered a betrayal to speak English if you were an Afrikaner. Their language and new identity was something the Boers vehemently protected and the freedom to speak their own language was something they were prepared to die for.

Afrikaner Women & Children in British Concentration Camps During The Anglo Boer War

Afrikaner Women & Children in British Concentration Camps During The Anglo Boer War

Animosity toward the English language persisted well into the 20th century. Even in my own family, being brought up in a conservative Christian Afrikaner household during the 1970s and 80s, I was forbidden to “mix” my language — replacing Afrikaans words with English ones — or even to read English comic books.

The First and Second Anglo Boer Wars further strengthened the position of Afrikaans and in 1925 it was finally recognised as a language in its own right.

The first Afrikaans feature film Sarie Marais, tackled the atrocities of how the Boers suffered in British concentration camps during the Anglo Boer Wars. Sarie Marais was released in 1931 along with the film Moedertjie, which dealt with events in 1914, when large numbers of young Afrikaners migrated from rural areas to towns and cities (abandoning the Afrikaner farming culture) in search of a better life. The films were also the first ever shown in South Africa that had sound and even though they were only 30 minutes long, they were still considered “full feature length”.

The first official Afrikaans translation of the entire Bible was published in 1933. This monumental work was a landmark accomplishment and established Afrikaans as “’n suiwer en oordentlike taal” (a pure and proper language) not only for religious purposes but it also firmly cemented the Afrikaner’s religion — puritan Calvinism — as a cornerstone of the Afrikaans identity and culture.

It’s worthwhile to note that some verses in the 1933 translation were carefully rewritten (by means of ‘selective’ interpretation) to justify the Afrikaner’s superior attitude towards other races… they viewed themselves as “chosen people by God”. Later these verses were used to rationalise and defend Apartheid. And so, a language once spoken by servants and slaves — considered a language of rebellion — gradually transformed into being the language of the oppressor.

In the late 1960s and early 70s, after South Africa gained independence from British rule, over 60,000 inhabitants of District Six — a neighbourhood situated on the foot of Table Mountain — were forcibly removed from their homes by the Apartheid government. District Six was a relatively cosmopolitan and interracial neighbourhood, with a large population of Cape Malays (Muslims) — the very people who spoke Afrikaans when it was a mere “kitchen language” a few hundred years ago. The neighbourhood was also inhabited by a substantial amount of black Xhosa residents and a smaller number of whites, and Asians. The majority of  District Six’s inhabitants spoke Afrikaans.

The Apartheid government gave four primary reasons for the removals. One of which stated that in accordance with Apartheid philosophy, interracial interaction bred conflict, necessitating the separation of the races. They deemed District Six a slum, fit only for clearance, not rehabilitation. However, shortly afterwards, the government declared District Six a whites-only area under the Group Areas Act, with forcible removals of other races and demolition of buildings starting in 1968… the entire neighbourhood was taken to the ground with bulldozers, leaving only a handful of churches and Mosques standing.

It was not until 2003, 37 years after its entire community was destroyed, that the redevelopment of District Six started.

Cape Malays Dancers In The Streets Of District Six

Cape Malays Dancers In The Streets Of District Six

In 1976, African secondary school pupils in the Soweto Township began a rebellion in response to the Apartheid government’s decision that Afrikaans be used as the language of instruction for half the subjects taught in non-White schools (with English continuing for the other half). During these tumultuous times, Africans refused to speak Afrikaans, because of how they were discriminated against by the Afrikaner under the stringent Apartheid laws.

The African community’s opposition to Afrikaans and preference for continuing English instruction was so severe that the Apartheid government was forced to rescind the policy one month after the uprising: 96% of Black schools chose English (over Afrikaans) as the language of instruction… and so the seed was planted setting in motion the slow process of transformation leading to the first free, non-racial, democratic elections in South Africa, in 1994.

In the new democracy, under the new South African Constitution of 1996, Afrikaans kept its status as an official language, and currently has equal status to English and nine other ethnic languages. The new policy means that the use of Afrikaans is now often reduced in favour of English, or to accommodate the other official languages.

Today, Afrikaans is spoken by 4,740,000 people as a first language and by 10,300,000 as a second or a third language in South Africa. Sadly, the number of Afrikaans speaking people is decreasing. Yet, it still remains a language that keeps transforming itself — finding new ways of expressing itself in the ever-changing political landscape of South Africa… and along with its own transformation the people who speak it, transform as well.

An urban dialect (or pidgin), called Fanagalo, incorporates three of the official languages in South Africa: Zulu, Afrikaans and English. Fanagalo is mainly spoken as a second language in the gold, diamond, coal and copper mining industries in South Africa and to a lesser extent in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Considering how national pride was drummed into me as a child, my grandfather — a man who played a pivotal role in establishing the Afrikaans school curriculum — will probably turn in his grave if he knew that I’m making a living as a writer in Britain, writing in what he considered to be the “language of the oppressor”. (Let alone the fact that I’m writing this article about Afrikaans in English!)

However, I have no illusions  about my mother tongue and I also carry no shame about its history. Like the language, I now stand with my feet firmly in the present. For me, in its essence, it will always be humble and earthy “kitchen language”. It’s the language that links me with my past. It keeps me grounded and reminds me that sometimes it’s necessary to change and adapt to your changing environment. It connects me to the people I love the most and when I hear it unexpectedly in the streets of London, I instantly feel comforted. With its simple, direct words and poetic turn of phrase it best captures everything about me, in a way no other language can.

Afrikaans once was a rebel and it turned into an oppressor. Throughout its short existence it was either demonized or embraced and as a result one thing is certain: It knows how to survive and accommodate change… just like the all the people who speak and have spoken it.

Having travelled all over the world, I can safely say: If you want to really understand the people and cultural nuances of a particular country, learn to speak their language… it will tell you everything about them you want to know… and much more.

A case in point, when the British design magazine Wallpaper described Afrikaans as “one of the world’s ugliest languages” in an article in 2005, the South African billionaire Johann Rupert (son of business tycoon Anton Rupert and chairman of the diamond luxury goods company Richemont Group), permanently withdrew all advertising from the magazine for brands such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc and Alfred Dunhill from the magazine. The author of the article, Bronwyn Davies, was an English-speaking South African.

Mors met my taal en jy mors met my land, my mense en met my siel.


Credits.
Text: FR Lubbe

Hearty South African Rusks – A Family Recipe

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‘Rusks’ is the anglicized term for Afrikaans ‘beskuit’ (French ‘biscottes’ and Dutch ‘beschuit’). Along with Rooibos tea, rusks was the staple with which my mother and grandmother weaned me off of breast milk.

These double-baked dry clunky biscuits have been part of Afrikaner culture (French and Dutch descendants) since the late 1690s. Baking rusks was an innovative way of preserving bread (similar to preserving meat — biltong — by drying it) especially when travelling long distances at a time when fridges and freezers did not exist during the Great Trek and the Anglo Boer Wars.

Since then, rusk recipes have been passed down within families from generation to generation and they are still eaten today — typically being dunked in coffee or tea to soften them before being eaten.

In our family, the first warm batch of rusks — fresh from the oven — is usually enjoyed with butter, cheese, jam and a steaming pot of ‘moer koffie’ (freshly ground filter coffee)…

The recipe I’m sharing here is one that’s been made (developed and enhanced) for more than three generations by the women of one of my friends’ family.

Ingredients:

1½ kilograms self-raising nutty wheat flour
500 grams All Bran Flakes (crushed)
500 grams mixed seeds (pumpkin, sesame, poppy, linseed and sunflower seeds)
400 grams brown sugar (Demerara)
1 x Cup dried coconut (optional)
1 x Cup Raisins
3 x Tablespoons baking powder
1 x Tablespoon salt

750 grams butter
600 millilitres sour cream
1 x Cup full cream milk
100 millilitre white vinegar
3 x Large eggs

Rusks
Method:

(Below is a short video that will show you the exact baking method.)

Preheat your oven at 180° Celsius (356° Fahrenheit or gas mark 4)

Cut the butter into bricks, add together with the sugar and milk in a saucepan and place on the hob over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar is melted. (Alternatively you can melt the sugar, milk and butter mixture in the microwave.)

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and vinegar together.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in another mixing bowl.

Add the melted butter mixture, sour cream and eggs to the dry ingredients.

Mix well. Knead thoroughly and deep until the dough is dense without any floury bits.

Evenly press the dough in baking trays. You’ll need about 3-4 baking trays.

Lightly cut the dough, marking how large you want each rusk to be (usually 1½ x 3 inches).

Bake for 30-45 minutes.

RusksRemove from the oven and allow to cool down a bit, in the baking trays.

Lower your oven temperature to 80°Celsius (176° Fahrenheit).

Cut your rusks and remove from the baking trays. Lay them out on a cooling rack and allow to cool down completely. You’ll notice that the rusks are still wet on the inside. (At this point we usually select a few warm rusks to enjoy with butter, cheese and jam.)

Once the rusks have completely cooled down, they are ready to be baked for a second time.

Put the rusks back in the oven for 4-5 hours to be baked until they are dried out.

Few things provide a sense of comfort, security and belonging like the nutty smell of freshly baked rusks lingering in the kitchen… and enjoying them together with family over ‘n steaming hot cup of coffee.

Try them, you’ll see what I mean.

Indulge a little bit!

Rusks from Little Red Shoes on Vimeo.


Credits.
Image: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Recipe: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Video: FR Lubbe for Little Red Shoes


Be Silent My Brothers

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Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.

– Helen Keller –

Like all South Africans (expats included), Nelson Mandela’s ailing health concerns me. I think what’s happening with us as a Nation, is the coming to terms with the fact that this extraordinary human being is preparing to leave this life behind. Getting to grips with this reality, reminds me of how my own family gathered around my grandfather’s bed in the final days before he passed away. And similar to back then, I find myself being with the aching thought: Tata* is dying.

It’s difficult to understand why an entire country is holding onto a frail old man with prayers for his recovery, when all the signs are there that it is time for him to go. We all know when the end is near, don’t we? Whether it happens tomorrow or in the next six months, it is bound to happen.

For me, the only prayer in our hearts should be: Thank you for his life and his example and his legacy. Let him go without pain and in peace.

Death brings great uncertainty. When I speak to my friends from across the globe and all walks of life, I notice their apprehension about the future of our country. It doesn’t matter whether we are black, white, coloured or anything in between, our love for South Africa pulses through our veins. As Mandela, our symbol of hope and inspiration, slowly fades away and as we gather around as a ‘family’ to witness the end of his life, it’s only natural that we fear the future.

I recently came across a poem written by the South Africa poet, Jan F Celliers. It was written between 1917–1934, in memory of General Christiaan De Wet — one of the great Boer generals, a rebel leader and politician during the Anglo Boer War. (De Wet is also mentioned in Kipling’s poem Ubique.)

The poem was written in Afrikaans and is titled, Generaal De Wet. I think its essence very much describes how I and my fellow countrymen feel at the moment, which is why I took the liberty of writing an English adaptation of the poem.

Perhaps these words will help.

Be Silent My Brothers

Be silent, my brothers,
a man is passing by,
he bids farewell,
one last time.
None like him will walk these fields again,
so look at him
and take note.

Those eyes,
dull and sunken deep,
once blazed with fire and flame —
an eagle’s gaze,
adored and loved;
his stride and proud display,
now weak and frail.
Is this N’kosi*, our father and king?

Indeed!
And as he was,
And as he is.

With fading sight,
he still looks on high
at you and I
as God commands.
Though slow in pace
With downward bend
and weakened heart,
he still remains,
as he did back then,
with every broken beat and sluggish step
loyal till the bitter end.

This pure man
is your child, South Africa!
So what fear is there?
Blessed is our land
with soil and blood and flesh,
that bear such fantastic fruit.
Ubuntu* my brothers,
Always Beloved South Africa!

*Tata – A south African term of endearment for ‘grandfather’
*N’kosi – A South African term of address to a superior; master; chief.
*Ubuntu – I am what I am because of who we all are.


Credits:
Images:  Nelson Mandela – Computer rendering from a photo of Nelson Mandela by Wayne Rose Graphics
Text: FR Lubbe – Translation and adaptation  of Jan F Celliers’ poem Generaal De Wet


The Media Versus Oscar Pistorius

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Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same. Fairness means everyone gets what they need.

  – Rick Riordan, The Red Pyramid –

I feel compelled to acknowledge that it is impossible to even begin to imagine how the family of Reeva Steenkamp — supermodel and murdered girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius — must feel. Speculating on this matter would be crass and presumptuous. The extent of this horrific tragedy and its impact must be incomprehensible, especially with the media’s insatiable hunt for sensation. Words fail to express enough sympathy that would bring any comfort to them.

South Africa and the global community have struggled for the last 7 days to come to terms with the fact that the most famous Paralympic athlete, Oscar Pistorius, an international hero and role model to millions, shot dead Reeva Steenkamp at his home in the early hours of Valentine’s Day.

Since the news broke, I watched in horror how a worldwide media frenzy erupted and witnessed the most deplorable, sensationalist and inaccurate media ‘reporting’ ever.

Sun

Tabloid newspaper The Sun grossly misrepresenting the facts surrounding the events of at the Pistorius residence on 14 February.

With a high-profile case like this, which is bound to attract international interest, it is only fair and reasonable to expect  respectable news sources and their journalists to stick to a degree of social responsibility and integrity while keeping the public informed with the cold hard facts. Above all, to do so sympathetically for the sake and respect of the families trying desperately to make sense of this horrific tragedy.

Instead, the press jumped at every opportunity to indulge in the kind of speculation usually seen in rag paper magazines, all for the sake of selling their ‘story’ — in effect building their own case against Oscar Pistorius. The result is a painful and almost deliberate cacophony of unconfirmed facts… and in many cases fiction. It is a grotesque example of trial by mainstream and social media.

I am in no sense giving my own magnanimous verdict and pardoning the athlete for his actions on 14 February. I don’t have to, because Oscar Pistorius has already admitted  his guilt for shooting his girlfriend. By now he has also realised that there must be a trial and that justice must take its course. This is at least my perception of his behaviour in court so far. He is by no means trying to walk away from Reeva Steenkamp’s murder scot-free.

Reporting on criminal and other legal trials is not prohibited in South Africa and the media has very much a free-reign in what can be said. Yet so-called credible international press sources like the BBC, Channel 4 News, New York times, Los Angeles Times, The Telegraph and The Independent, have thrown all journalistic ethics overboard and adopted a tabloid-style hunt for sensational half-truths… and they have taken an attitude of  ‘do as the romans do.’

The whole ‘truth’ must still be established, which is why the press still has a journalistic (and moral) duty to explain accurately how this will take place… especially since members of the public may not be familiar with the South African Roman-Dutch legal system. Instead of highlighting the criminal judicial proceedings and how these are applied, the media so far has coerced in turning a pre-trial bail application into a mini murder trial. This unnecessarily prolonged a basic legal procedure  to over nearly a week — a procedure that normally takes nothing more than an hour.

It is unprecedented in any court case to have so many facts and evidence  heard in the pre-trial stage, especially when only a bail application is concerned.

Things erupted the moment Oscar Pistorius was charged with ‘Premeditated Murder’, which in the US translates to First Degree Murder. By definition, in South African Law, Premeditated Murder means that Oscar Pistorius must have planned, conceived and executed the murder of Reeva Steenkamp. This of course would imply that, if true,  Pistorius is a cold-blooded murderer.

New York Post

The Daily News and New York Post’s ill-informed version of events

Yet, very few media sources bothered to explain what Premeditated Murder really means in the South African legal context and why the prosecution made this charge:

• From a prosecutors point of view, it is always best to raise the maximum charge possible for the crime committed. If it later transpires that the evidence presented during the trial points to a greater crime than the initial charge raised, the accused cannot be given a new maximum charge for the same crime. For example, if Oscar Pistorius is charged with manslaughter but the evidence points to premeditated murder, he can only be trailed and judged on the charge of manslaughter.

• On a second and more speculatory level, the prosecution may have made the charge because they feel there is enough evidence to prove that Oscar Pistorius did indeed plan the murder of Reeva Steenkamp.

• Thirdly, falling back on the definition of Premeditated Murder, the prosecution may argue that having a firearm at his house was not for the intention of defending himself, but purely for the reason of killing someone with it. It can therefore be construed that he ‘planned’ the murder. The prosecution can also argue that, under South African law, you can be charged with murder if you kill someone while you are not in immediate danger. Even if the accused argue that he or she acted in self-defence, the murder charge can still hold.

The latter, is the angle the media chose to focus on, without explaining the other important factors coming into play. Within a matter of hours since the charge was brought against Oscar Pistorius, a hero and demigod was turned into a blood thirsty monster. The media decided to run with the unproven ‘facts’ and therefore, ‘beyond any reasonable doubt’, Oscar has lost his case in the public eye without ever appearing in front of a judge or telling his side of the story… ready to be locked up. The only sentence for Premeditated Murder in South Africa is life in prison. (However, in this case the prosecution have suggested in court that a sentence of 15 years to life in prisonment is on the cards.)

With very little or no understanding of the legal position of the prosecution, it’s no wonder that Joe Public, in an almost unanimous ‘guilty verdict’ across the globe, started to tweet, post opinions in comment threads and Facebook status updates, ending short of feeding the athlete to the lions in a roman-circus style execution.

Under normal circumstances and with a more balanced and less inflammatory approach, the press should only have reported the following:

      • A woman has been found murdered at the home of Oscar Pistorius. It is believed she was shot three times.
      • The athlete has been charged with premeditated murder.
      • The defence denies the charge of premeditated murder but admits that the accused shot his girlfriend as he mistook her for a burglar. Defence will apply for bail.
      • Prosecution will oppose bail arguing Pistorius is a flight risk.
      • Defence will argue special circumstances in favour of the bail application.
      • Bail is either denied or approved.
      • The trail date is set.
The Evening Standard running with the headline implying that steroid drugs were found as Oscar's house... when in fact the truth is that it was not steroids but a legal sports supplement.

The Evening Standard running with the headline implying that steroid drugs were found as Oscar’s house… when in fact the truth is that it was not steroids but a legal sports supplement.

Instead, the public was subjected to defamatory half-truths, like the allegations of a ‘bloodied’ cricket bat found in Pistorius’ house the night of the incident. Some even went so far as to claim that the cricket bat was a key part of the evidence against Pistorius and that Ms. Steenkamp’s autopsy results showed that her skull was crushed.

However, it later transpired that there was no blood on the cricket bat and that the prosecution now claims the bat may have been used to force entry into the bathroom where the dying Ms. Steenkamp was lying.

Bludgeoning someone’s skull with a cricket bat and using a cricket bat to force entry through a door to provide help and assistance, are two very different stories that imply two very different things about the character profile of the accused and the events of that particular evening.

Worst still, Reeva’s family had to read this. How cruel is that.

The bloodied cricket bat is just one example of the unmitigated misinformation published and reported by the press. In fact, very little has yet been confirmed as irrefutable evidence. Neither the prosecutors nor the defence lawyers have had time to scrutinise forensics and eyewitness accounts. This will take months. Making any allegations or assumptions about the evidence would be premature at this stage.

A lot has been said about Oscar receiving ‘special treatment’ because of his global status. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, if anything, he received questionable treatment. His pre-trail bail application has been turned into a media-circus and under that pressure, and for the sake of sensationalism, it has now become clear that the prosecution did a botched job in collecting trustworthy eyewitnesses and evidence in their case against him. Prosecution have even gone so far as to backtrack on their own initial statements regarding the events of what happened that fateful evening.

Reeva and Oscar

Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp weeks before her tragic death. Reeva told her best friend Samantha she would say yes if Paralympian Pistorius, 26, asked her to marry him.

To put it plainly, the quality of evidence in the case against Oscar Pistorius have shown disastrous shortcomings and in same instances it’s transpired that the evidence presented by the prosecution has been trumped up. Yet, the media simply can’t get enough of the story and their voracious appetite for more, and yet more, gory details seems to feed our blood lust.

Premature speculation carelessly obscures the course of justice. The big difference between the English legal system and South Africa is that South African criminal trials are not decided by jury. The thinking is that judges are trained to put aside their prejudices and decide cases on the basis of the evidence before them and the law. I doubt that this will be the case in Oscar Pistorius’ trial and fear that there is a real risk of substantial prejudice to the administration of justice.

The media is well-aware of its power to influence public opinion. It is disgraceful that this tragedy was turned into nothing more than a Christmas-come-early and a free-for-all for reporters and journalists across the globe, creating a Kafkaesque public reaction. It is not unheard of that a public outcry can influence the outcome of a murder trial…

This whole thing reeks of a Roxie Hart and Billy Flynn scenario.

We seem to have forgotten, whilst playing judge and jury, that a man (who millions still adored a week ago) have to stand trial for murdering his girlfriend — a person who, by all accurate accounts, he was in love with. He deserves a fair trial, like any other criminal. Yes, a crime was committed. I am not denying that and neither have Oscar Pistorius and his defence team. To what degree he committed this crime must be decided by a court of law — uninfluenced by media sensationalism and social-media antics.

Above all, Reeva Steenkamp’s family deserves a fair trial. It will take them years to recover from their loss. An accurate and fair verdict may perhaps help them to get some peace and comfort a tiny bit sooner.

I am astounded at how a society can manage to turn someone we have put on a golden pedestal, into a murderous villain within seconds based on what tabloid papers are feeding us. Can we not think and reason for ourselves with fairness… Or at the very least, question what we are told?

I can only hope that we have moved on from the days when people were thrown to the lions to be eaten alive in a public spectacle. In a civilized society — one with advanced legal systems and procedures that supposedly should enable the course of justice — it is not our place to bellow and cry like bloodthirsty hounds and demand for Oscar Pistorius to be burned at the witches stake. Not without a fair trial. So far he has not had one. The blame lies at the door of the media monster, who is out to get a pound of flesh no matter what.

He will pay, no matter what. He has already lost the backing of his sponsors, his career and reputation is in tatters, and he has to live with the memory of what he had done to Reeva Steenkamp for the rest of his life… something I still believe, in my heart of hearts, was an accident. Hopefully, Oscar’s defence will prove the prosecution wrong through mitigating factors.

Still there will be no winners in what ever the outcome is. Not for Reeva Steenkamp’s family and not for Oscar Pistorius.

Is that not enough?

Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius at the London 201 Olympics


Credits:
Images: All images sourced from the internet and are not the property of Little Red Shoes.
Text: FR Lubbe