TIME South Africa

Heated Reaction in South Africa to Pistorius Sentence

Oscar Pistorius after he is sentenced at the Pretoria High Court on October 21, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa.
Oscar Pistorius after he is sentenced at the Pretoria High Court on October 21, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. Herman Verwey—Getty Images

The six-time Paralympic medal-winning athlete is sentenced to five years in the shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, eliciting charges of injustice in his native South Africa

When the judge sentenced Oscar Pistorius to five years in jail for killing his girlfriend, his reaction was muted. The response elsewhere in South Africa was not. “Five years for murder?” screeched one angry caller to a local radio talkshow. Twitter lit up with angry condemnations of the judge, some commentators going so far as to suggest that all murderers would be so lucky to have her presiding over their case.

After all the drama of a trial that evoked Hollywood theatrics and a blockbuster viewership over the course of its seven-month-run, Judge Thokozile Masipa finally delivered her sentence Tuesday morning in the courtroom in Pretoria, condemning Pistorius to five years in prison for killing his girlfriend, 29-year-old law graduate and model Reeva Steenkamp in what he described as a tragic mistake. Pistorius wiped his eyes upon hearing his sentence and reached for the hands of family members gathered behind him.

Pistorius, 27, killed Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, shooting her four times through a closed bathroom door in his home. He testified that he had mistaken her for a nighttime intruder. Immediately following his sentencing he was escorted out of the packed court, down a flight of stairs and into the court’s detention center to await transport to the prison.

On Sept. 12 Masipa convicted Pistorius of culpable homicide, a crime similar to manslaughter, but acquitted him of murder at the conclusion of a trial that had become an international spectacle. Pistorius, a double amputee dubbed the “Bladerunner” for his athletic prowess on blade-shaped prosthetic limbs, alternately wept, vomited and collapsed at various points of the trial as the prosecutor presented graphic evidence taken from the scene of the crime and asked Pistorius to recount, in agonizing detail, the events of the night his girlfriend was shot. The prosecution accused Pistorius of murdering Steenkamp in a fit of rage.

In sentencing Pistorius to five years imprisonment, Masipa split the difference between the prosecution’s argument for 10 years and the defense’s case that any jail term would be an unjust punishment for a double-amputee in a violent prison system where Pistorius could be subjected to abuse because of his disability. His lawyers had argued for a three-year probation period of house arrest and community service.

The Steenkamp family appeared to be satisfied, with family lawyer Dup De Bruyn saying that it was “the right sentence,” and that “justice was served,” according to Reuters, suggesting that an appeal is unlikely. Public reaction has been much more heated. Radio talk shows were inundated with angry callers lambasting the judge. “Lady justice just had her legs amputated,” shouted one irate caller. Another cursed Masipa on air, prompting a flurry of Twitter comments over the inappropriateness of denigrating a judge, no matter the reason.

It is likely that Pistorius will be paroled after serving at least one sixth of his sentence — 10 months — according to legal analysts, prompting sarcasm from one math-impaired Twitter commentator: “Three women are killed by their partners every day in [South Africa]. I guess an 8-month sentence will help fight this,” tweeted@ justicemalala.

Meanwhile, the International Paralympic Committee, which has awarded Pistorius six medals throughout his career, says that he will be banned from competing for five years, even if he is paroled early. Given the high profile nature of both Pistorius and Steenkamp, it was a given that no matter the sentence, people would be angry. Twitter commentator @ZuBeFly summed it up best: “Only way I’d feel 100% satisfied is if any type of sentence the judge passed would bring Reeva back. No winners here either way.”

Read next: Oscar Pistorius Gets 5 Years for the Culpable Homicide of Reeva Steenkamp

TIME South Africa

Oscar Pistorius Gets 5 Years for the Culpable Homicide of Reeva Steenkamp

South African Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius attends his sentencing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria
South African Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius attends his sentencing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria Oct. 21, 2014 Herman Verwey—Reuters

The Paralympic gold medalist was acquitted of murder last month

Athlete Oscar Pistorius was sentenced Tuesday to five years imprisonment for the Valentine’s Day killing of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The 27-year-old double-amputee was found guilty of culpable homicide after shooting Steenkamp through the toilet door of his home in Pretoria on Feb. 14, 2013.

The “Blade Runner,” as Pistorius is known due to his trademark prosthetic limbs, claims he thought an intruder lurked inside, but the state maintained that he shot four times with the intention of killing Steenkamp after the couple had argued.

The South African was acquitted of murder by Judge Thokozile Masipa last month after a high-profile trial that was televised around the world.

In sentencing Pistorius, Masipa said she weighed, “The personal circumstances of the accused and interests of society.”

She added: “A non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community, but a long sentence would also not be appropriate.”

Pistorius made history as the first Paralympian to compete against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics. He has apparently been suffering from depression since Steenkamp’s death.

A separate firearms charge received three years imprisonment, suspended for five years.

Read next: Heated Reaction in South Africa to Pistorius Sentence

TIME South Africa

Oscar Pistorius Must ‘Pay for What He Has Done,’ Steenkamp Family Says

Athlete expected to be sentenced as early as Friday for culpable homicide of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius “needs to pay for what he has done,” Reeva Steenkamp’s cousin said Thursday at a court hearing to decide the athlete’s sentence for killing the model. “My family are not people who are seeking revenge, we just feel … taking somebody’s life, to shoot somebody behind the door that is unarmed, that is harmless needs sufficient punishment,” Kim Martin told the court. “I’m very fearful of the accused, I have tried very hard to put him out of my mind…because I didn’t want to spend any energy thinking about him,” she said.

After giving her testimony, Martin thanked…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME South Africa

Psychologist Says Pistorius Is a ‘Broken Man’

Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius attends his sentencing hearing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria
Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius attends his sentencing hearing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa on Oct. 13, 2014. Marco Longari—Pool/Reuters

The "Blade Runner" is awaiting sentencing for his culpable homicide conviction

(PRETORIA, South Africa) — Oscar Pistorius is a “broken man” after killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp because he lost the woman he said he loved as well as his reputation, friends, income and sense of self-worth, a psychologist called by his lawyers testified Monday.

Dr. Lore Hartzenberg gave the testimony ahead of the runner’s sentencing for culpable homicide, and it was almost immediately characterized by the chief prosecutor as unbalanced.

Hartzenberg said the double-amputee runner had sometimes cried, retched, perspired and paced up and down during meetings in which she tried to assist him.

The testimony was part of an effort by the runner’s legal team to persuade Judge Thokozile Masipa that Pistorius has suffered emotionally and materially for what he said was an accident and that he is remorseful. The team hopes the judge will be lenient when she sentences Pistorius after what is expected to be about a week of legal argument and testimony.

Pistorius, once a celebrated athlete who ran in the 2012 Olympics, was charged with premeditated murder but Masipa instead found him guilty last month of the lesser charge of culpable homicide. Sentences for that conviction can range from a suspended sentence and a fine to as many as 15 years in prison.

“We are left with a broken man who has lost everything,” Hartzenberg said during her testimony.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel criticized her findings, saying Pistorius would likely have the chance to rebuild his life.

Several police officers stood guard on the dais where the judge sat amid concerns about her security. Masipa drew criticism from some South Africans who thought Pistorius could at least have been convicted of a lesser murder charge on the grounds that he knew a person could die when he fired four bullets through a toilet door in his home early on Valentine’s Day last year.

Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, died in the hail of bullets, and prosecutors said Pistoriushad opened fire in anger after the couple argued. The runner testified that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder who was about to come out of the toilet and attack him.

Hartzenberg, who described herself as an expert in trauma counseling, said she first met withPistorius on Feb. 25 last year, 11 days after the shooting death of Steenkamp, and had been counselling him since then.

“Some of the sessions were just him weeping and crying and me holding him,” Hartzenberg said, describing Pistorius as overcome with grief and guilt that he had caused Steenkamp’s death.

She said the shooting and Pistorius’ lengthy and high-profile murder trial meant the athlete had also suffered severe loss. He had lost Steenkamp, his “moral and professional reputation,” many of his friends, his career and his financial independence, she said.

“I can confirm his remorse and pain to be geunine,” she said.

Responding to Hartzenberg’s description of a broken man, prosecutor Nel asked the psychologist about Steenkamp’s family.

“Would you not expect a broken family?” Nel asked, saying Steenkamp’s father Barry had suffered a stroke as a result of the killing of his daughter.

Nel said Pistorius also had the opportunity to return to his life and his track career.

“We are now dealing with a broken man, but he is still alive,” the prosecutor said.

Hartzenberg was the first witness called by Pistorius’ defense lawyers to argue in mitigation of sentencing. Defense lawyer Barry Roux said he would likely call four witnesses during the sentencing hearing. Prosecutor Nel said the state would call at least two, with the hearing expected to last a week.

There is no minimum sentence in South Africa for culpable homicide or negligent killing, although some experts say a five-year jail sentence is a guideline when a firearm is used.

Read next: Pistorius and South Africa’s Culture of Violence

TIME Video Games

PlayStation Plus Price Increase Isn’t in the Offing for North America

Sony's price for a 12-month U.S. PlayStation Plus subscription is currently $50 and looks to remain so for the near future, despite price hikes in other regions around the world.

Sony’s privileges and rewards PlayStation Plus online club for its PlayStation 3 and 4 game consoles won’t see a price hike in North America anytime soon, but its price tag is going up by a significant amount in other regions of the world.

“We slightly increased prices for PlayStation Plus in South Africa, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and India regions due to various market conditions,” said a Sony representative in an email to Joystiq. “Currently, price adjustments are not being planned for PS Plus in the SCEA [Sony Computer Entertainment America] region.”

South African news portal iAfrica wrote yesterday that South African PS Plus members would see a “rather large price increase,” citing emails from Sony that indicated the price of a three-month subscription would rise from R145 (about $13) to R219 (about $20), whereas a 12-month subscription would rise from R489 (about $44) to R749 (about $67). According to iAfrica, Sony calls the increase “slight,” says it was “due to various market conditions,” and gave less than 24 hours notice of the change.

In the U.S., a three-month PS Plus subscription currently runs $18, while a 12-month subscription runs $50. The subscription, which unlocks a variety of discounts and access to free games, is also necessary on PlayStation 4 to play online games, though online play remains free on the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita.

Price increases can feel a bit like tax hikes: nebulously justified and almost impossible to vett, since no one’s allowed behind the scenes or liable to get more than vagaries (like the one above) out of spokespersons. The best you can do is look at comparable services, say Microsoft’s Xbox Live, which started at $50 a year in the U.S. and rose slightly to $60 in November 2010.

But in South Africa, a 12-month Xbox Live subscription currently runs in the vicinity of R600, or about $54. So from that vantage, assuming South Africans are getting nothing new in the bargain and considering the prior prices, Sony’s new fees look as stiff as iAfrica says.

TIME South Africa

South Africa Shuts Down First Pro-Gay Mosque

The religious cite is apparently in violation of a city law about parking spaces

Local officials in Cape Town, South Africa, have shuttered the country’s first mosque that welcomes gay people and allows women to lead prayers, citing a municipal code violation.

Cape Town city councilor Ganief Hendricks tells the BBC that the Open Mosque, which only opened on Friday, was in violation of a city law that requires one parking space per 10 worshippers at a place of worship. Hendricks said the mosque also failed to secure a permit to convert use of the building from a warehouse to a place of worship, which can take up to six months.

Members of the mosque, which drew harsh criticism from some segments of the local Muslim community, contend the city’s crackdown is an effort to close the mosque for good.

“We have freedom of religion and expression in this country,” said mosque founder Taj Hargey. “No one has the right to tell anyone what to believe in. This is a gender-equal mosque, autonomous and independent and will remain so.”

Hendricks maintains that the issue is not one of religious persecution but of a city zoning law.

“This is an emotive issue – some councillors who are Muslim would want to defend the issue more vigorously than those that aren’t but the bottom line is we have to make sure that the rules are followed,” he said.

[BBC]

TIME South Africa

Steenkamp Family Slams Pistorius Ruling

South African Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius leaves the High Court in Pretoria on Sept. 12, 2014 after the verdict in his murder trial where he was found guilty of culpable homicide.
South African Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius leaves the High Court after the verdict in his murder trial where he was found guilty of culpable homicide in Pretoria, South Africa on Sept. 12, 2014. Gianluigi Guercia—AFP/Getty Images

“Justice was not served,” said the victims mother

The family of Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot and killed by South African runner Oscar Pistorius last year, slammed the judge’s decision to acquit Pistorius of murder.

“He shot through the door and I can’t believe that they believe it was an accident,” June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother, told NBC News. Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide Friday but cleared of the more serious murder charge. The conviction carriers a minimum 5-year prison sentence but could be served out in the form of house arrest if at the judge’s discretion.

“I don’t really care what happens to Oscar,” June Steenkamp said in an interview with NBC News. “It’s not going to change anything because my daughter is never coming back. He’s still living and breathing and she’s gone, you know, forever.”

Pistorius will be sentenced next month.

[NBC News]

TIME Viewpoint

Lessons from the Pistorius Trial on Race, Guns and Class

South African Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius leaves the High Court in Pretoria on Sept. 12, 2014 after the verdict in his murder trial where he was found guilty of culpable homicide.
South African Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorius leaves the High Court after the verdict in his murder trial where he was found guilty of culpable homicide in Pretoria, South Africa on Sept. 12, 2014. Gianluigi Guercia—AFP/Getty Images

The South African athlete escaped the worst possible outcome at his murder trial. But we're only beginning to grapple with the ramifications

Audiences have been gripped by the story of the South African sporting champion Oscar Pistorius, who was accused of shooting and killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year. In March, South Africa devoted a TV channel that allows 24-hour viewing of the trial, which dominated global headlines and Twitter feeds again this week as the verdict was announced. Pistorius was found not guilty of premeditated murder, the more serious charge, but was found guilty of culpable homicide—the equivalent of manslaughter. His sentence remains to be decided.

But what should we take away from the Pistorius case?

It’s clear that the media attention given to the trial is largely due to Pistorius’s iconic status as an international athlete. A double-amputee who went on to compete in the Paralympics and Olympics using prosthetic legs, Pistorius brought glory to South Africa in the 2012 London Games and inspired many with his motto: “You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.”

But coverage of the trial has also been so extensive because the case has required us to probe deeper in order to understand the environment in which the crime took place. Pistorius’s defense was predicated on the argument that his response—shooting four times through a locked door at someone he believed to be an intruder—was a reasonable one. If Pistorius didn’t live in a nation with extraordinary high rates of violent crime, under a government tarred by corruption, his defense that he believed himself to be in danger would have been easier to dismiss. But in her verdict the South African Judge Thokozile Masipa reminded the world that her country’s endemic problems with violence does not excuse Pistorius. “Many people in this country have been victims of violent crime,” she said, “but they haven’t resorted to sleeping with guns under pillows.”

It’s no surprise that a great deal of the commentary has focused on what the trial can tell us about contemporary race relations and violent crime in a nation that abolished apartheid just 20 years ago. Despite the fact that whites make up only 8% of South Africa’s population, the majority of witnesses in the trial belonged to the same white, wealthy Afrikaner circle as Pistorius and Steenkamp, many of whom also lived in the couple’s elite high-security complex. The racial composition of the 37 witnesses shed lights on the kind of unofficial segregation and social inequality that still persists in South Africa today, where the average income of a white household is still six times higher than that of a black one.
It appears that the post-apartheid “rainbow nation” spoken of with such hope by Archbishop Desmond Tutu is still a ways off. Indeed, some commentators think the only reason the case has caught the world’s attention is because it is about a wealthy, successful white man and a beautiful, glamorous white woman. Yet others have seen the trial as an indication of the progress made in South African society—progress that has enabled Judge Masipa, a black woman who grew up poor in the Soweto township, to now determine the fate of a white man. And some have said the more pressing question is the problem of violence against women, an issue that cuts across national, racial and social borders.

However, there is a danger in taking what may be a deeply individual tragedy and viewing it as a reflection of an entire society. The fact that Pistorius is wealthy does not mean all white Afrikaners are, nor does the fact that Judge Masipa is black indicate that the legal profession in South Africa has achieved racial parity. We should try not to think of the trial as a mirror on South African society but rather as a window into a certain section of it, a window that has encouraged many of us to learn more about the country’s unique judicial system and broader social structure.

We all want to believe that the steps taken towards equality have led to unequivocal success. While great strides have been made, we must remember that a country can have black presidents and black judges and still struggle with lingering racism and segregation. We must ensure that as the trial draws to an end, we won’t be closing the door on the difficult conversations that need to be had about the way in which race, gender, wealth and power intersect—in South Africa, and far beyond.

TIME South Africa

Reeva Steenkamp’s Parents Say ‘Justice Was Not Served’ in Oscar Pistorius Verdict

June and Barry Steenkamp, parents of Reeva Steenkamp listen to the judgement of Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria
June (L) and Barry Steenkamp, parents of Reeva Steenkamp listen to the judgement of Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Afric on Sept. 11, 2014. Pool/Reuters

PRETORIA, South Africa—The family of model Reeva Steenkamp slammed a judge’s decision to acquit Oscar Pistorius of murdering their daughter, telling NBC News that “justice was not served.” Pistorius walked out of court on bail Friday after he was convicted of culpable homicide but cleared of a more serious murder charge. The double-amputee track star will be sentenced next month.

In an exclusive interview for NBC News, June and Barry Steenkamp expressed “disbelief” that the court believed Pistorius’ version of events. “This verdict is not justice for Reeva,” June Steenkamp said. “I just want the truth.”…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME South Africa

Oscar Pistorius Guilty of Culpable Homicide for Shooting Girlfriend

Verdict will be followed by sentencing hearing, and both sides retain the right to appeal the decision

A South African judge found athlete Oscar Pistorius guilty on Friday of culpable homicide in the killing of his girlfriend, one day after being acquitted of a murder charge.

Judge Thokozile Masipa announced the verdict in Pretoria after a six-month-long trial and extended the former Olympian’s bail until the start of his sentencing hearing on Oct. 13, the Associated Press reports. Culpable homicide, or negligent killing, with a firearm typically carries a five-year prison sentence in South Africa, the AP adds, but the judge can decide on a range of measures from a suspended sentence and a fine to up to 15 years in prison. Both Pistorius and the prosecution have the right to appeal the decision.

He was also convicted on one of three unrelated firearm charges.

Pistorius became the first double-amputee to compete at the Olympics two years ago in London, assuming icon status among disabled athletes. He was charged with premeditated murder after the fatal shooting of Steenkamp, 29, on Feb. 14, 2013, but declared not guilty of that charge on Thursday. Pistorius built his defense on the claim he mistook her for an early morning intruder, whereas the prosecution argued that he shot her in rage following an argument.

[AP]

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