With the world focusing its attention on the trial of Paralympian Oscar Pistorius who is charged with murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, Eric Miyeni looks at how differently the scenario could have played out.
“My lady, I am Oscar Pistorius. I was born with a condition that left me with stumps for legs. I don’t know if it would have been right to mourn this, to cry over it or feel sorry for myself. I was never given that option.
“My mother, a strong woman, a loving woman who was taken from us early in my life, taught me never to give up. I was made to believe that I could do anything that any able person can do as long as I set my mind to it. She taught me that I was not different.
“In addition to this, I grew up in an environment where being ‘a man’ is important, where being strong and being in charge is so critical that the thought of losing control, manly power and respect is unbearable. The men in my family, like my father who did not spare the rod, often to cruel extents, own guns and use them. They are men’s men. I was brought up to be strong.
“My lady, it is this rigorous psychological training that turned me into what the world called the ‘Blade-runner’. I have to say; it is exhilarating to think of all my achievements. Not only have I competed in the Paralympics and won many medals, I have made history and run competently in the real Olympics against some of the finest able-bodied athletes.
“I have, because of my background, achieved a great deal more than anybody with my physical disabilities can dream of. In fact, I have attained a lot more, physically, than millions of able-bodied people can dream possible. I am proud of my accomplishments my lady, and, I believe, rightly so.
“In the end, I had it all, because there I was, a global icon, a rich man, a handsome man and she, a woman I loved desperately, a woman I was so lucky to share a part of my life with, one of the most beautiful women on earth, came to stand by my side and complete the picture.
“If you had asked me, my lady, a mere week before that tragic Valentine’s Day, if it would have ended with me standing before you today facing life in prison for killing this woman, I would have laughed, and thought you mad for even asking.
“But here we are, my lady. Here I am, up for murder before you and the questions remain: ‘Why? What happened? What in God’s name was I thinking?’ How can this be explained to any rational person in a manner that makes sense?
“Sitting here now before you, looking back, knowing that this is my story, I am at a loss to justify my actions of the morning of 14 February 2013, a morning that will remain a stain in my heart for the rest of my days. A morning that remains a nightmare in every waking second I live. A morning, I believe now, that proved that a lot of what I was brought up to believe is power and bravery is actually weakness and cowardice.
“It would be very easy for me to blame my mother, my lady. I could point to my macho upbringing from my father’s side. I could blame it on a psychological flaw that comes with being raised to believe that a man must always stay on top. I could blame it on an internal vortex of anger I never knew I had for whatever reason that might be totally intertwined with the realisation on that fateful night that, after all, I have no legs, I am incomplete, I am not in charge and Reeva was not mine.
“Maybe these realisations came too quickly for me to control the impact, my lady. All I know is that I look back in horror at what these sudden discoveries made me do, what I did when I unexpectedly learnt what I should have been taught from the start; that it’s okay to lose, that who I am is deeper than what most call being a man, that a woman’s love is hers to share with whomever she chooses, that rejection of any kind does not define who one is or what their truest value in life is.
“My lady, I have had to learn this the hardest way anybody can, by committing one of the most terrible acts any human being can in a fit of unexpected, unmitigated, blind rage. I will not take any questions on the matter my lady. I plead guilty and leave my fate in your hands. I might have been taught the things I was taught, but I am still responsible for how I act because of those lessons. To the Steenkamp family, and to you alone, I am deeply, deeply sorry for what I did. I am more saddened by it than you will ever know. And I am ashamed. I thank you for your forgiveness Mrs Steenkamp. The damage done can never be repaired, which makes your forgiving words all the more difficult to bear. I am deeply sorry.
That is all, my lady.”
Unfortunately, you will never hear these words. South Africans, as a rule, never accept blame without being forced to do so and even then, we will fight to the bitter end before we admit that it’s our fault. I feel sorry for Oscar Pistorius. To a large degree, he is a product of this sick, sexist, take charge, macho, gun-toting environment that calls for this overrated need for men to have control over everything. We are, in many ways, collectively to blame for all the women who get murdered at the hands of their lovers daily in this country.