Oscar Pistorius shot dead Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.
Photo Credits: EPA
On Tuesday, Judge Thokozile Masipa gave her decision of a five year jail sentence for the 27 years old Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius for his culpable homicide conviction for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. In additiona, he also received a three years suspended sentence for firearms charge in a restaurant, a separate incident before the Steenkamp killing. This marked the end of a trial that has gripped South Africa and millions around the world.
Pistorius will serve his time in Pretoria’s Kgosi Mampuru prison in a separate and secure hospital wing of the massive complex.
Judge Masipa stressed the difficulty of reaching a decision that was “fair and just to society and to the accused”.
She said: “A non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community. On the other hand, a long sentence would also not be appropriate either, as it would lack the element of mercy.”
She also rebuffed suggestions that Pistorius – a wealthy and influential white man – might be able to secure preferential justice despite the “equality before law” guarantee enshrined in the post-apartheid 1996 constitution.
“It would be a sad day for this country if an impression were created that there is one law for the poor and disadvantaged, and one law for the rich and famous,” she said.
Nevertheless, neither prisoners who are serving their times nor ordinary South Africans were impressed with the sentence given to Pistorius. “If it was a black man he would have never received such a light sentence. But that’s how things are in South Africa.” Said Johannes Mbatha, a 38-years old minibus taxi driver.
Protestors picketed outside the court, criticised the judicial system as being too light on such a crime committed by Pistorius.
The ruling African National Congress’ Women’s League, which is at the forefront of political efforts to tackle violence against South African women, on Tuesday called for an appeal by the state against the September 12 culpable homicide conviction.
But Steenkamp’s family said it was satisfied with the sentence.
“Justice was served,” family lawyer Dup De Bruyn told reporters outside the court. The judge had given “the right sentence”, he said.
With no minimum sentence for culpable homicide, South Africa’s equivalent of manslaughter, Pistorius could have been punished with a few years of house arrest combined with community service.
Judge Masipa pointed to the moral and philosophical changes that South Africa has undergone and indicating that the courts were no longer about mob justice and an “eye-for-an eye”. She indicated that a just decision and judgment must be a balance between retribution, deterrence and rehabilitation.
Pistorius will not be able to resume his athletics career until his full term is served and even if he were released early, he would not be allowed to run at any events for five years, the International Paralympic Committee said, ruling out any appearance at the 2016 Rio Olympics.