“Not guilty, my lady, ” said the accused Oscar Pistorius, on the first day of his trial. He stands accused of murdering his girlfriend, South African television personality and model, Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.
Over the past three weeks, the media has treated us to what can best be described as a Pretoria-set legal drama, starring a former celebrated Paralympian in surely his most challenging role to date. Fans of the show have been given exclusive access to footage of Pistorius sitting in the docks while witnesses testify, text messages exchanged between the ill-fated pair leading up to the case and even the actual toilet door that he shot Steenkamp through. Reviews have been glowing, with Time and Vanity Fair deciding to capitalise on the show’s success and publish articles not just about the case but about violence in South Africa in general. Although the jury system was abolished during apartheid, some say the final verdict is going to be put to a public vote. Indeed, popular bookmakers Paddy Power have recently begun taking bets on it, offering a refund “if he walks”.
…a mother has had to sit and watch while the man who murdered her daughter in a fit of rage tries to claim innocence…
Presenting the “cold” and “brutal” facts of this case to us hungry viewers has resulted in a numbing effect. A numbing effect where we watch emotionless as either a double-amputee who became a world-class sprinter is so upset listening to the injuries he accidentally inflicted on his girlfriend that he throws up in court, or where a mother has had to sit and watch while the man who murdered her daughter in a fit of rage tries to claim innocence. When the verdict is announced, the world will tune in. And then the world will tune out, or find another show, and leave those directly affected to deal with the aftermath.