Women 1; Os­car 0

Ten­ta­tive cel­e­bra­tions greeted the Pis­to­rius re­lease de­lay, as women’s groups want him to stay in jail

CityPress - - News - HLENGIWE NH­LA­BATHI hlengiwe.nh­la­bathi@city­press.co.za

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.

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