PAROLED: Convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius home on parole 11 years after killing Reeva Steenkamp

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Convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius is back home with family after he was placed on parole on Friday 5 January. Pistorius was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp whom he shot dead on 14 February, 2013. 

Steenkamp’s family and the Women’s Legal Centre have highlighted that while Pistorius’s case resulted in a conviction, countless families across South Africa in similar cases have yet to experience closure or see justice served for their loved ones. 

Pistorius was released on Friday to his family, and will spend the rest of his sentence at home under strict conditions until 2029. Media have been camped out at the home in Tshwane to where Pistorius is being released and at other locations in the hope of catching a glimpse of the former athlete. 

A security guard walks outside the home believed to be of Oscar Pistorius’s uncle Arnold in Waterkloof in Pretoria. Pistorius was released on parole from the Atteridgeville Correctional Centre on 5 January, 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Pistorius was granted parole in November 2023. Pistorius, a former Paralympic star, was meant to serve a 13-year and five-month sentence but received parole after serving eight years. In the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 2013, Pistorius shot Steenkamp multiple times through his bathroom door, killing her almost instantly. Pistorius later claimed that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder. 

Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp together on 4 November, 2012 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images)

Read more in Daily Maverick: Pistorius to walk free — after chequered justice experience in prison

In a statement following his release, Steenkamp’s mother June described the day on which 29-year-old Reeva — a law graduate and model — was killed. 

“The day life changed forever. The day South Africa lost its hero, Oscar Pistorius, and the day Barry and I lost our precious daughter, Reeva, at Oscar’s hands.” 

The Department of Correctional Services on Friday morning said the details of transportation plans and timing of Pistorius’s release would not be made public, as “disclosing such details may result in a security threat for the inmate and other stakeholders involved. Therefore, DCS has to carefully manage that particular risk”. 

Prison officials standing outside the Poynton building in Pretoria on the day Oscar Pistorius was released on parole from the Atteridgeville Correctional Centre. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Reacting to the news, Bronwyn Pithey from the Women’s Legal Centre told Daily Maverick: “You know, a lot of people I think are very disillusioned by the fact that he’s spent eight to nine years in prison, yet he murdered someone”. 

She explained further that while the case was an exception because of the public profiles both Steenkamp and Pistorius had, murder at the hands of a partner “unfortunately happens far too often in South Africa”. 

Pithey said Pistorius’s release — happening in the public eye — is going to be seen through the lens of how seriously the country was taking gender-based violence. 

“How seriously is government, the criminal justice system, correctional services taking gender-based violence and violence against women if you can be found guilty for murder, not culpable homicide for murder and be released after eight or nine years?” she questioned. 

Pithey added this case highlighted “that there are so many other cases we know very little about because they don’t find their way into the public discourse”. She continued, “and so many of those cases are unresolved, are taking years and years to finalise with very little resolution and being able to find peace for so many families and, and friends of those victims”.

Barry (centre) and June (second-right) Steenkamp, the parents of Reeva Steenkamp, arrive for the sentencing of the South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius at the Gauteng North High Court in Pretoria, South Africa, on 14 June 2016. (Photo: EPA/Kevin Sutherland)

‘We are the ones serving a life sentence’

In her statement following Pistorius’s release, June Steenkamp stated, “I wish I could thank each one personally for carrying Barry and I through these difficult years. Part of Barry and my daily conversations were always flooded by the sorrow we felt for the parents and families of victims whose perpetrators were not brought to book. Our thoughts remained with them as they were denied any form of closure and the names of their loved ones never recognised or honoured”. 

“We have always known that parole is part of the South African legal system, and we have always said that the law must take its course. 

“Oscar Pistorius’s release on parole, subject to certain conditions, has affirmed Barry and my belief in the South African justice system. The conditions imposed by the parole board, which includes anger management courses and programmes on gender-based violence, send out a clear message that gender-based violence is taken seriously.” 

Steenkamp continued: “Has there been justice for Reeva? Has Oscar served enough time? There can never be justice if your loved one is never coming back, and no amount of time served will bring Reeva back. We, who remain behind, are the ones serving a life sentence. 

“With the release of Oscar Pistorius on parole, my only desire is that I will be allowed to live my last years in peace with my focus remaining on the Reeva Rebecca Steenkamp Foundation, to continue Reeva’s legacy.” 

Reeva Steenkamp’s mother, June Steenkamp during a question and answer session based on her book ‘Reeva – A Mother’s Story’ on March 10, 2015 at the University of Johannesburg. (Photo: Gallo Images / The Times / Moeletsi Mabe)

What can and can’t Pistorius do while on parole? 
According to the Department of Correctional Services, “general parole conditions” would apply to Pistorius. These include that he would be expected to be at home at particular hours of the day, and he may not consume alcohol and other prohibited substances. He must participate in the compulsory programmes that have been identified by the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board (CSPB). “Just like other parolees, Pistorius is restricted from conducting media interviews,” said the department. 

How did we get here? 
In 2014, Gauteng High Court Judge Thokozile Masipa believed Pistorius’s account of the shooting and convicted him of culpable homicide, sentencing him to five years in prison. However, by December 2015, the Supreme Court of Appeal set aside Judge Mapisa’s verdict of culpable homicide and ruled that Pistorius was guilty of Steenkamp’s murder. 

Oscar Pistorius leaves the North Gauteng high court in Pretoria on 14 June 2016 after a sentencing hearing. Pistorius was convicted of killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp on 14 February 2013. (Photo: Charlie Shoemaker / Getty Images)

Judge Masipa was ordered by the court to give Pistorius a new sentence, after which she extended his prior sentence to six years. But in 2017, Judge Willie Seriti found the six-year sentence handed down by Masipa was “shockingly low” and imposed a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years. Pistorius had already served time, so the duration of his sentence after the Seriti ruling was 13 years and five months. Accordingly, Seriti’s ruling meant Pistorius would become eligible for parole in 2023.

In December, News24 reported there were more than 5,000 individuals placed on parole in the Western Cape, and a further 2,000 placed on probation. DM


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