Oscar Pistorius and South Africa’s class justice

Ruth Hopkins

The murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, the “Blade Runner” Olympian, reveals as much about the ugly face of South African class justice as it does about the details of the killing, writes Facts and Opinions contributor Ruth Hopkins in F&O‘s Justice section. The trial has revealed the level of quality of the legal process that the criminal justice system is capable of producing — but ordinary South African citizens are by no means guaranteed a fair trial. An excerpt:

Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial in South Africa, dubbed the trial of the century, has hogged the limelight since he was arrested for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year. The court room in the Pretoria High Court has become the focal point of the world’s media. Pistorius’ lawyer Barry Roux stole the show when he impressed both friend and foe by tenaciously laying bare inconsistencies in witnesses’ testimonies, narrowing in on forensic evidence incorrectly secured by officers at the crime scene, and challenging the state’s version of events. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel has contested the defence’s evidence with equal tenacity. The legal spectacle that is unfolding has provided a breath-taking expose of the South African criminal justice system. This has led some commentators to conclude that the justicesystem itself is on trial.

The so-called OP case however, is hardly representative of the criminal justice system in this country, but rather exposes the ugly face of class justice. The trial has revealed a level of quality of the legal process that the criminal justice system is capable of producing, when a defendant with ample financial resources is on trial and the glaring spotlight of the world’s media is focused on court officials.

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