Women 1; Oscar 0
Tentative celebrations greeted the Pistorius release delay, as women’s groups want him to stay in jail
Women’s groups were this weekend celebrating their victory in preventing the release from prison of Oscar Pistorius, despite the justice minister’s insistence that political pressure played no role in his decision.
It has also emerged that at least one government department, the women’s ministry, was also involved in helping the women’s groups.
Women’s rights organisation the Progressive Women’s Movement of SA (PWMSA), along with other women from the ANC and its allies, asked Justice Minister Michael Masutha to reject the recommendations of a parole board to place a “reckless and negligent” Pistorius under correctional supervision.
The PWMSA, led by Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Hlengiwe Mkhize as national convener, wrote Masutha a strongly worded petition berating the double standards of the criminal justice system.
They described the decision to release him during Women’s Month as “insensitive” and questioned the race and gender of those who took the decision.
Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide for the killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was due to be released and moved to house arrest on Friday after serving 10 months behind bars.
But two days before his release, Masutha announced that he had referred the matter back to the parole review board after it emerged that Oscar had served only six rather than the required 10 months of his five-year sentence when the decision was made on June 5.
Masutha this week admitted that while he ordinarily did not peruse parole board decisions, he had to do so after he received the petition from the PWMSA.
Masutha said that, although the grounds for the petition could not be legally sustained, he had to satisfy himself that the process followed was in compliance with the law.
Mkhize said: “This development shows the minister is also concerned about the perceived public view about our justice system. He cannot change the judgment, but we appreciate even the concession that, in a democracy, if a decision doesn’t enjoy popular view, there might be problems with it,” she told City Press on Thursday, a day after Masutha made the announcement.
“We can’t celebrate and are focusing on how the appeal will go. That is the big thing for us.”
Mkhize did not take all the credit for influencing Masutha’s decision.
Without revealing much, she said there were other players involved.
City Press has established that the ministry of women under Susan Shabangu was behind the blocking of Pistorius’ early release and had a hand in the strongly worded petition signed by women from ANC–alliance structures such as labour federation Cosatu, the SA Communist Party, the SA National Civic Organisation and faith-based organisations.
Their petition criticised how the criminal justice system promoted the rights of male perpetrators above the rights of all others.
“While we acknowledge Oscar Pistorius’ constitutional right to be considered for parole like any other offender, it is our submission that placing him under correctional supervision during Women’s Month will be an insult to the victims of women and child abuse, and the women of South Africa in general.”
Mkhize said Pistorius should serve his full term for the gruesome murder of his model girlfriend.
“We definitely want him to serve time. There must be a sense of justice, otherwise this, for us, looks like it promotes impunity – where you can do the worst crime and be let off scot-free.
“We were also concerned about why the parole board was so efficient. Normally, boards don’t meet on time and processes are often delayed – but this time they did it exactly on time, and so we drafted the letter with the help of some people.”
The ANC Women’s League also welcomed the decision to delay Pistorius’ release, saying he should remain in custody until November, when the Supreme Court of Appeal is set to hear the appeal brought by the National Prosecuting Authority against the judgment and the sentence.
“The league is convinced Judge [Thokozile] Masipa handed down an erroneous judgment and an extremely lenient sentence to Pistorius, setting a bad precedent in cases involving gender-based violence – especially in instances where women die at the hands of their partners,” the league said.