Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial Adjourned Until April 7
Pistorius murder trial has gripped the British press - but what about South Africa?
IBTimes UK

Cath Everett is a British journalist living in Johannesburg. She blogs regularly for IBTimes UK about life as an expat in South Africa in My South African Adventure

Despite the media circus and seemingly endless, minute coverage of the Oscar Pistorius trial, it appears that South Africans themselves have mixed views on it all.

The issue of whether the Paralympian gold medal winner is guilty of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, last Valentine's Day or not is still undoubtedly a regular topic of conversation, and of somewhat obsessional importance to some. But, based on what I've seen in Johannesburg and the surrounding area, the novelty for others appears to be wearing thin.

NGO worker Neil Fortuin is typical of many in that, before starting work, he will often catch up with what's going on by reading one of the local news websites. But "somehow the trial has become too lengthy so I've given up on following the story closely, although I do have a sneak peak here and there," he said.

Gerrit Laning, operations manager at educational charity Vision AfriKa, appears to be equally jaded, saying: "To a large part of the country's people, [Pistorius] was not that well known. Most people I speak to see it as a nice conversation topic, but few, in my opinion, have strong feelings either way."

Charlene Pearson, an estate agent secretary based in Johannesburg, agrees. "I wasn't interested in him prior to this, so why would I be interested now?" she asks. "I have no real feelings about him one way or the other as I don't think his reality touches mine, or a lot of other people's."

But after listening to coverage of the trial on both black and white radio stations when driving to work, she perceives there to be a split in how both communities view the situation.

Pistorius and the defence team's focus on the security situation in the country, which allegedly led him to shoot in self-defence because he feared his house was being broken into, has seemingly been embraced by the white community, making it more sympathetic to his plight, Pearson said.

But the black radio stations are unhappy with this depiction of the country as being in "a terrible state", feeling that it amounts to diversionary tactics and is not "kosher with how they should be portraying South Africa".

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Legal advisor Mandy Capela, meanwhile, believes that the trial has been unduly "sensationalised" as a result of Pistorius' celebrity status and describes the whole spectacle as "disgusting".

"There's so much crime in this country and people only care about this one because they like him," she said. "So many crimes go unnoticed, but they've given his trial a dedicated channel on DSTV [Multichoice's digital satellite TV service in Africa] because he's famous. It's pathetic."

To make matters worse, Capela added that some of her friends were taking the stance that Pistorius simply could not be guilty because of who he is. "They say 'he's a good-looking guy and he wouldn't do that'. But it's just nonsense," she said.

There is undoubtedly some concern over how fair the outcome of the trial is likely to be, however. Charity worker Thandeka Mbokodi believes that anything other than a guilty verdict would not be looked on favourably by the majority.

"I think it would only divide the country should he not be found guilty simply because of the perception that most celebrities get away with anything, even crime, because of their celebrity status," she said.

Vision AfriKa's Laning agrees that money is all too often seen to talk in the country. "Very often justice in South Africa seems to be based on the quality of legal representation. Oscar apparently has one of the best teams. They probably will get him off the hook."

But no matter what the outcome, Capela feels that, if the trial has done nothing else, it has at least helped educate the nation on the basics of the legal system.

"Friends have been asking me things like why Pistorius calls the judge 'Milady' and why there are two assessors helping her in court so it's opening up minds. It's scary that people don't know the basics of how it all works, but hopefully this will be a start," she said.