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Africa

Questions surround Pistorius shooting

Commentators are talking about the role of violence and abuse of women following the killing of Reeva Steenkamp.
Last modified: 21 Feb 2013 12:32

The intrigue surrounding how and why Oscar Pistorius shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead on Valentines Day is intense.

It is natural for there to be a lot of speculation over exactly what happened, but the extent to which South Africa's media have been exploring possible scenarios has surprised people outside the country who are more used to the strict laws governing sub judice that exist elsewhere.

Newspapers have been quoting unnamed police sources, creating comic strip like graphics - a blow by blow account of what they understand took place.

It is the kind of thing that would get you fired in the UK or hauled before a judge to face a contempt of court charge in the US. But things are different here. The media is allowed more scope because Pistorius will be tried in front of a judge, not a jury.

Sub judice laws exist to prevent the publication or broadcast of material that could influence an ordinary member of the public who may be called upon to take part in a jury. Juries were abolished decades ago because of racial politics - whites were the only people allowed to sit so it would have been impossible under apartheid for a black person to get a fair trial. Because a judge is far less likely to be influenced by the media, reporters are allowed more scope.

Away from the actual shooting there has also been debate over the wider issue of gun ownership in South Africa. It has put a spotlight on the high murder rate and sparked commentary about the way many families choose to live in high security gated communities.

It has also brought comment from the likes of the Commission for Gender Equality that violence against women is an issue South Africa is failing to deal with. It seems every conceivable angle has been explored and will continue to be so in the search for understanding and answers.