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Oscar Pistorius has been cleared of the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a vindication for the athlete who vehemently protested his innocence during a trial in South Africa that gripped millions around the world.
But the judge abruptly adjourned the trial on Thursday afternoon with the culpable homicide – manslaughter – charge still outstanding. In delivering her ruling, judge Thokozile Masipa said it was clear Pistorius had acted unlawfully in shooting the person behind the toilet door on Valentine’s Day last year.
She said a “reasonable person” would not have fired four shots into the toilet cubicle, and that Pistorius acted “too hastily and used excessive force … It is clear his conduct was negligent.”
The court will resume on Friday to hear her decision on whether the athlete was guilty of culpable homicide, which could result in a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
The Olympic and Paralympic athlete slumped forward in the dock and sobbed quietly as the judge ruled that the state had failed to prove he was guilty of murder or premeditated murder, and that the evidence was “purely circumstantial”.
The not guilty verdicts will bring some relief to his family, who were in court to support him every day, and the legion of fans who believed in him. It even raises the prospect that the Paralympian could one day resurrect his career on the track.
But the judgment is likely to be condemned by friends and supporters of Steenkamp, including the African National Congress women’s league, who were regularly represented in the public gallery and danced and sang outside court on Thursday. It will also fuel fears that Pistorius has received preferential treatment because of his wealth and fame.
Dean Peacock, the executive director of Sonke Gender Justice, a group that campaigns against rape and domestic violence, said: “We respect the judge’s decision and won’t second guess it. In a country where the criminal justice system routinely fails gender-based violence victims, the verdict will easily be interpreted as evidence that violence against women goes unpunished. That’s not Masipa’s fault. That’s the fault of an endemic failure to hold perpetrators of domestic violence and rape accountable.”
After 41 days of testimony that ran to 352 pages of evidence, Masipa ultimately dismissed the prosecution case that Pistorius intended to kill when he shot four times through a toilet door at his home on the morning of 14 February 2013. Neighbours at his luxurious gated community in the capital of South Africa had testified how they heard “bloodcurdling screams” before and during a volley of shots.
But the judge dismissed these conflicting accounts as unreliable and said the court had the advantage of technology: the record of phone calls that night. The timeline it established “tipped the balance” in favour of Pistorius’s version of events, she said.
Masipa said Pistorius was a “very poor witness”, but that untruthfulness did not in itself mean the accused was guilty. She ultimately accepted his tearful insistence that he killed Steenkamp by accident after mistaking her for an intruder, and that he was traumatised by the death of the woman he loved.
“The state has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder,” the judge said. “There are just not enough facts to support such a finding.”
She said the accused believed his life was in danger and therefore could not be found guilty of a lesser charge of murder. “How could the accused reasonably have foreseen that the shot he fired would kill the deceased?” she said. “Clearly he did not subjectively foresee this as a possibility, that he would kill the person behind the door, let alone the deceased, as he thought she was in the bedroom at the time.”
The judge dismissed days of evidence about matters including police tampering with the crime scene and the length of extension cord in Pistorius’s bedroom as ultimately irrelevant to the case.
At the end of the court session, Pistorius sat silently for long minutes, engulfed in emotion, comforted by his sister, Aimee, and brother, Carl, who is in a wheelchair after a serious car accident.
The ruling represents a significant victory for defence counsel Barry Roux, who had argued that the 27-year-old should have been tried for culpable homicide rather than murder because he had displayed an exaggerated “startle response” aggravated by his lifelong “disability and consequent vulnerability”. Pistorius’s lower legs were amputated when he was 11 months.
The murder trial generated obsessive debate on Twitter and made legal history in South Africa by being broadcast live on television, giving the judicial system unprecedented exposure and offering a glimpse of a country still gripped by crime and the fear of crime.
Roux and prosecutor Gerrie Nel – who mauled Pistorius during cross-examination, confronting him with a photo of Steenkamp’s bloodied head – became minor celebrities and several books on the case are in progress.
At the centre of the drama was Pistorius, a sombre and at times tormented figure in the dock and on the witness stand. Less than a year before the killing, the “Blade Runner” had been at the pinnacle of his career and set to make a personal fortune from brand sponsorships and endorsements. His agent, Peet van Zyl, told the court there were two stars of the 2012 London Olympics: Pistorius and the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.
The South African’s ascent had been the stuff of Roy of the Rovers comic books, overcoming his disability, bullying at school, an absent father and the death of his mother to run with the best in the world. Along with the Paralympic golds, he did charity work for children with disabilities and was seen as a role model and global brand. Van Zyl had predicted Pistorius and Steenkamp could be celebrities in the vein of David and Victoria Beckham.
All this lay in ruins just after 3am on Valentine’s Day last year when Pistorius picked up his gun, walked to his bathroom and fired four lethally expanding 9mm bullets through the locked toilet door. On the other side of it was Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law graduate, who died almost instantly. Her mother was in court for most of the trial.
Pistorius pleaded his innocence from the start, claiming he had been frightened by a noise in the bathroom and, assuming in the dark that Steenkamp was still in bed, had gone to confront an assumed burglar. During the trial, the athlete’s defence appeared to shift under questioning from Nel. Having argued that the killing was a deliberate but mistaken act of self-preservation, he then said he pulled the trigger without thinking – an assertion that would match a so-called automaton or involuntary defence but not self-defence.
Nel, dubbed “the Pitbull”, said Pistorius was an “appalling witness” who “dropped the baton of truth”. Other observers described him as a poor witness who undermined his own credibility.
Yet Nel also admitted that the state’s case was circumstantial. The defence produced a detailed timeline that it said demonstrated the screams heard by neighbours were not from Steenkamp but a desperate Pistorius, horrified and crying for help. It also highlighted police incompetence during the investigation including contamination of the scene and even the theft of Pistorius’s designer watches.
The athlete’s disability and sense of vulnerability may have weighed in the judge’s mind as an explanation for his panicked response. Roux argued that Pistorius’s double amputation had a cumulative effect on his psyche, much like a battered wife who kills her abusive husband when one final indignity pushes her over the edge. “You have to look at the slow-burn effect of that abuse over time,” he said.
An acquittal had seemed unlikely to many. In March 2013, when he granted Pistorius bail, the magistrate Desmond Nair noted a number of“improbabilities” in the athlete’s account of the shooting. Why, he asked, did Pistorius not find out who was in the toilet before opening fire. And why did Steenkamp not let him know she was there?
The Zambian Voice is looking for members to join our Think Tank Forum which will be analyzing national policies and make recommendations to Govt and relevant institutions the organisation.
The group will be meeting once a week in the evening. Members of the group MUST have a commendable knowledge in Economics, Public Administration, Mass Communications, Development Studies, Agriculture or any other fields of public interest.
Interested individuals should forward their CVs to firstname.lastname@example.org. The subject should be Think Tank Group.
Through this organisation you will have benefits of contributing in a positive way to national development and the social welfare of Zambians. You will also have a chance to meet other Think Tanks groups and persons of influence at national and World level.
The core group will be based in Lusaka but we intend to spread through our the Country as soon as possible. However those who want to part of this can still send their CVs, if selected, they will contribute through other means such as email, facebook, whatsup, etc. Personal commitment and responsibility will of high value. Membership is voluntary.
It is a fact that the relieving of Mr. Wynter Kabimba from his Ministerial and party position has brought contradictory views among members of the general public, the media fraternity and the political front. Others are jubilant for his disappointment while others are groaning.
As an organization that promotes democratic tenets, good governance, justice and human rights, we respect all opinions and views expressed by all affected entities at all levels. However, certain insinuations of tribalism and vilifications have worried us.
It is unarguable fact that no human being is TOTALLY good or bad. We all have our positive sides as well as the negative sides. Mr. Kabimba is no exception to the reality of a human being.
All of us are free to choose what to magnify on an individual. Thus you can choose to emphasize on the positive or negative of a person. But wisdom and love entails to look at the positive side and change the negative. This is valid reasoning because development is positive and never negative.
Our quest is not to defend anyone but natural justice and our Christian values. This is what we stand for and we will always defend at all cost.
We therefore wish to advise those that have taken a negative view on Mr. Kabimba to carry out introspection and make a judgment of how perfect they are, or they too have something that people would celebrate about should they be brought low. Like Jesus Christ before an adulterous woman, he asked those who were accusing the poor woman to cast the stones if they had never committed sin themselves. The words of Jesus are being repeated today to all those jubilating and calling Wynter Kabimba all sorts of names.
While we emphasize the positive, we should also guard against magnificentialism of an individual. We are all equal human beings but gifted differently. Exaggerated self exultation usually brings indignation from others. Humility brings peace and love among human beings.
We have noted with concern that the ordinarily, disappointing of a minister has degenerated into a tribal discourse by some quarters of society and the media. We wish to condemn such agenda or opinion settings. It is the prerogative of the President to appoint or disappoint inspite of whatever influence he may have. Let us not question the tribe for the appointment or disappointment of an individual, rather the reasons behind it. It would be gullible to simply base an appointment or disappointment on tribe.
This kind of agenda setting risks to throw this Country into serious problems that can swipe out the little we have achieved as a Nation. We have been united as one nation for almost 50 years and this is what we have to celebrate, cherish and uphold as we celebrate the silver jubilee.
We also wish advise the citizens not to take Mr. Kabimba as a sacrificial lamb which takes away all the sins of PF. We still have to hold the PF accountable to make sure they deliver on the Constitution, social and economic paradigms. This development should not allow other ministers to loot our nation.
There will be a meeting for all Zambian Voice (ZV) members including new members. The meeting will start at 10:00hrs to 12:30hrs.
Come and be part of the voice that will change the life of Zambians. You need to do something to make positive change.
1. Prayer followed by Introductions
2. Zambian Voice Profile
3. Zambian Voice Membership (who is a member)
4. Zambian Voice Programmes / Projects / Activities (What is ZV working on and future projects)
6. Date of Next meeting.
7. Closing Prayer
Kambwili said that The Post imagined that they held the biggest opinion in the country and peddled lies against those they hated.
He said The Post Newspapers thought they were king makers.
“The Post Newspaper, sorry to say, is a stupid tabloid, because you see The Post feels that they are king makers and that they are the biggest opinion in this country which is wrong,” said Kambwili who has been on the receiving end of scathing comments from the Fred M’membe owned publication.
“You and I know that just yesterday The Post Newspapers was saying there is no corruption in PF whatsoever now that one of them has been fired now we are all corrupt.”
He added: “Like I said in the Daily Nation, I have been a victim of Wynter Kabimba’s corruption. I have been reported to the Anti Corruption Commission four times on very trumped up charges. He was trying to use the ACC to bring me down but I am a very straightforward politician.”
Drama continues on the political sine in Zambia as Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations George Chellah files for divorce in the Lusaka High Court against his wife Joan.
Chellah, has been widely known to be having a lot of female friends. It has also been speculated that he makes sure he gets any good looking lady in the media circles.
Chellah alleges that his wife is envious of his social life and also prone to rumours, grounds he deems adequate to dissolve their marriage.
Chellah who is only 33 years old has only been married for half a decade to his college sweetheart Joan but it seems the ‘little fame’ that comes with being the mouthpiece to the president overwhelmed even his private life.
Zambia Reports had earlier reported that Chellah had deserted his matrimonial home for different women and had told his wife he can get any woman he so wants.