With Oscar trial over it’s time for broader look at justice

byafrika

The sentencing of Oscar Pistorius for the death of Reeva Steenkamp was the most trending international news item this week. After Judge Thokozile Masipa announced the 5 year sentence for culpable homicide many people rushed to social media platforms to share their views on the sentence and on what had become the most sensational trial in South Africa’s history. This is the first trial in South Africa to have been fully broadcast and had a dedicated television channel.  

Now that the dust is settling I am trying to understand what the fuss was about. Did the people who clamoured to have a view on this trial do so because of their love for justice or were they just seduced by the media frenzy surrounding the trial? In many people’s mind Oscar is guilty of murder and is deserving of a much longer sentence. I just wish these same people could also show the same fervour and interest in other criminal matters. 

Reeva’s death was tragic and very sad and yet it should not be isolated from the deaths of other South Africans. 47 South Africans are killed every day and this means that the day that Reeva was killed, 46 others also had their lives taken away from them. The social status of these other South Africans who were also killed together with Reeva on February 14th, 2013 means that we have sentenced them into anonymity. They do not matter because they were not famous and neither were their killers.

For instance the death of Anene Booysen who was raped, killed and mutilated was hardly an issue for many people because she was an every-day South African teenager from a poverty stricken background. She was not from the bright lights of Gauteng but was from Bredasdorp, a small town in the Western Cape. A 6 week old Northern Cape baby was raped by her uncle in November 2013 and I wonder how many people still remember her plight.    

Media spotlight
The media spotlight on Oscar’s trial is understandable but what I can never understand is how Christians allowed themselves to imbibe, without even questioning, the agenda of the world’s media. The media did not cover this particular story because of their care for Reeva and her family but because of the mileage they would get. If we were truly concerned about Reeva then we should be concerned also about others who are killed because no life is worth more than the other. 

In God’s eyes Reeva’s death is not more important than the death of Anene Booysen, some homeless individual or even the deaths of so many babies killed during abortion. Why then are we allowing the media to pull the strings on our hearts? The media has a powerful influence over culture and as Gateway News our desire is to promote a ‘kingdom culture.’ This means that we want to go beyond just reporting on news and bring the perspective on the kingdom into news.     

From a kingdom perspective, how then should we look at the Oscar Pistorius saga? Firstly we need to show our support to the Steenkamp family for the loss of their daughter. This is something we should do regardless of Reeva’s social standing or circumstances surrounding her death. Secondly we should find it in our hearts to forgive Oscar. Anyone who fires four bullets through a closed bathroom door has some serious problems and let alone the fact that he slept with a firearm under his pillow.

Only God knows what went on in Oscar’s mind on that valentine morning and it also God who knows what goes in the minds of those who continue to shed the blood of others. Thirdly we should be concerned about the state of our nation. Crime has increased and the Eastern Cape in now the most murderous province in South Africa. We should be less concerned about the social status of the perpetrators of crime than we are about crime itself.  

If we are concerned that an injustice occurred during Oscar’s trial then we should look at the totality of the justice system and not just this particular case. It is time that we stop being hypocritical.

20 Comments

  1. Margaret Ferguson

    It is good to see you back writing on Gateway News Afrika. I also appreciate the way that you connect the reality of the social situation with the spiritual without ‘preaching’. It is straight forward and to the point-and so exposing the truth of the socailsituation from a biblical point of view

    • Thanks Margaret.
      I love making a contribution n this platform of Gateway News. It gives us believers a place to interact and shape our own worldview.

  2. Amen to that. The talk of justice and freedom for all (especially in the US and Canada), while millions of babies are aborted, is beyond comprehension.

  3. Afrika
    I love reading you articles, you don’t sugar coat and move away from sensitive topics.The problem is, we all blame this on the media,but it is not.They are a business and they know what we like to feed off.
    so if we want the media to change we need to change first.They will follow for the love of money.
    AMEN

    • Thanks Dillon,
      The media does at times serve us the food we want to eat. If we change our appetite this might change the menu.

  4. Since the death-penalty for murder has been scrapped, there isn’t enough space in prisons for life-sentences, so murderers are being let off with light sentences and released back into society. No wonder people are living in fear!

    • Hi Carine,
      Do you think if the death penalty was still in force it would act as a deterrent to crime? My concern is that even if it was there, a badly run justice system (i.e. policing, courts, etc.) will make sure that those who deserve still escape it.

  5. Hugh G Wetmore

    Thanks for an insightful look at Justice issues as surfaced by the Pistorius trial. What grabbed my attention was that the Judge said she had to look at Justice from two aspects: Society’s side and Oscar’s side.
    From a Christian viewpoint, that is totally wrong. God looks at Justice from the VICTIM’S viewpoint. The Steenkamp family’s lost must be paramount in Biblical Justice. As it is now, when the Steenkamps buy food for themselves, they pay a portion of their VAT to support Oscar in prison. Instead of Oscar making restitution to the victims, the victims must support the one who killed their daughter. Where is Justice in that? Read Exodus and Deuteronomy and see how God has compassion on the Victim of crime, and how the perpetrator must make restitution to the Victim. God’s earthly Justice cares for the Victim.
    Our Western ‘Justice’ is now more concerned with “correctioning” the criminal. That is important, but not at the Victim’s expense.
    When I lived in African tribal society, I noticed how Tribal Justice prioritised recompense for the Victims of crime. That is the way the whole world was until about 1000AD.
    At that time, the Kings and Nobles of Europe saw themselves as the “owners” of the serfs, the poor, who lived on their property. If one of them was murdered, the King was the victim, as his ‘property’ had been violated. So it became a Case of “The King vs the Accused”. This morphed into our Republican justice system as “The State vs the Accused”. The Victims were left unnoticed on the sidelines, useful only as “Witnesses” in the battle between the State and the Accused. Pause and consider this: Our whole Justice System is twisted, because we ignored the Biblical (and Traditional Tribal) view of Justice. It would be more Just if Oscar and other convicted criminals were made to work in a prison-factory or farm, earned some income, and have 60-80% garnished to support the Victim’s family for life. This Principle applies to ALL crime – our System needs radical revision. Imagine the brakes this would put on corruption, theft, arson, drunk-driving, assault (hospital bills), culpable homicide and murder (support for life). God’s ways are always Best!

    • Justice is not as cut and dried as I understand your comment to indicate.
      God’s ways include mercy and forgiveness. In this fallen world no system is perfect and it is better to err on the side of mercy than on retribution. There are many people imprisoned and even executed unjustly due to corruption, revenge, dishonesty, mistakes, arrogance in the system, and much more.
      Even our understanding of God’s word differs depending on our religious propensities.

      • I get the point you are raising Hugh. Indeed if we were successful in convicting and sentencing every person who commits crime we would feel good about ourselves but the problem is that we still need to build the jails to house all the lawbreakers and pay for their upkeep. If I am not mistaken I think it could about R7000 a month for the upkeep of one prisoner in a correctional facility. At our current crime rate, can we afford this? My problem with the Oscar Pistorius trial is the fact we have dealt with it in ways different to how we deal with other criminal matters which shows biasness to me. Both those who wanted him to be given a long sentence and those who wanted him to escape punishment did not do those because of a general concern for crime but because it was Oscar on the stand. Had it been someone else we would be saying different things. I think besides locking a prisoner away in a facility that might cause him to reoffend we should make him make some kind of recompense to society.

  6. Hugh G Wetmore

    T Meyer, I’m sorry I was not clear enough, hence your assumption that I was narrowly focusing on “Retribution” as opposed to “Mercy”.
    Afrika’s plea was that we should take “a broader look at Justice”. I did this by introducing the component of RESTITUTION (not Retribution). My concern is that our current Justice System prioritises concern for the Offender, over concern for the Victim. “Instead of Oscar making restitution to the victims, the victims must support the one who killed their daughter. Where is Justice in that?”
    Post Modern thinking tries to disconnect Actions from Consequences. True Justice says Actions DO have Consequences (Gal 6:7-9). Mercy must not disconnect Consequences from Actions. God’s grace is only possible because God Himself took the Death-penalty Consequences of our Sin (Romans 3:23-26). To be merciful to Pistorius, someone must first bear the punishment-consequences of his actions. Sadly in our fallen world it is the Victims who usually are left to bear those painful consequences, while the perpetrator gets off free, or lightly. That’s why God’s Justice System includes Restitution by the Offender to the Victim. God’s Ultimate Justice will see the clear connection between Actions and Consequences: when everyone “small and great is judged according to what they had done” (Rev 20:12), and those listed in the Lamb’s Book of Life will only escape hell because Jesus in grace and mercy was punished in their place.

  7. Amen! Thank you Mfundisi for reminding Us. God bless You.

  8. Peter McGregor

    Thank you Africa, very well put and a challenge to Christians around this country to allow Christ Himself to be seen in their lives and less of the sparkle of this world. GOD Bless,……..Peter.

  9. Afrika, you are hitting the nail on the head again. It is as if we are glamourizing crime in South Africa based upon the persons social standing, but as you rightly say, what about the other 46 people. Can we just ignore that statistic because these people were not famous? No!
    That brings me to another thing. With this case, are we not telling the rest of the world that we cannot trust our justice system. A verdict was delivered, but now we must return to the courts, stating that the verdict is wrong, it must be less/more jail time or whatever. Are this kind of behaviour not degrading to this country’s judicial system.
    How much better would it not be if the initial verdict can be considered the correct one, and so respected by us all. After all, the authority of the day is there by the will of an Almighty God.