Sunday, April 20, 2014

Oscar Trial - Speculations of what REALLY happened, a new contextual timeline and the best graphic yet of the crime scene



This is the best graphic I've seen thus far of the crime scene at Pistorius' Silver Woods Country Estate.

A few things that stand out:
1. Notice the television cabinet in relation to the passage to the bathroom.  Remember, in Pistorius' version Reeva slept on the left side.
2. Notice where her bag (fully packed) and shoes are lying (on the right side).
3. Notice where the jeans are lying.

A few statements I'd like to highlight from Pistorius' testimony:

1. When asked by Barry Roux if he consciously pulled the trigger, or not, he answered - somewhat cryptically - 'Not'.

2. Pistorius described the terror of not being able to defend himself, yet that's exactly what he did.  If there had been an intruder there, Pistorius would have succeeded - with flying colours - at defending himself.

3. Have you thought about how Reeva felt?  "I've thought about it (not Reeva) many times...in my own...answering of the question."  This is a wildly bizarre response to Nel's question!

4. When Nel specifically asks Pistorius whether Reeva wanted to leave he dodges the question.  He never answers it directly.

And two hypotheticals:

1. In the reality of Pistorius' version, having just fired 4 shots and after screaming, why would Pistorius expect to find Reeva lying in bed.  After shooting through the door he says he retreated to the bed, and she wasn't there.  By why would she be.  If you hear an intruder and gunshots in your house, will you simply lie inert in bed?

Here's a quoted comment (off a news story) referencing the same idea:

He walks backwards to the bedroom on his stumps still in darkness, and only when he doesn't feel her in the bed, that's the FIRST time it crosses his mind that it could have been her in the toilet! Really?? I would argue that this is the LEAST possible time I would expect to find her in bed. He just fired 4 shots a few meters away from the bed she was supposedly sleeping in! He expected her to still be fast asleep or sitting in bed? 

2. In the reality of Pistorius' version, wouldn't the easiest and quickest way to open the locked door be to shoot the lock? By firing from the opposite angle, at an angle close to parallel with the wall,  you'd minimise harm to the occupant. Perhaps not, perhaps there's a danger of a ricochet both to the shooter and the occupant.  At face value though, it does seem a little odd to fire four rounds through a door and then to try to open the door with a wooden bat.

A Timeline of Circumstantial Evidence:

Wednesday 14:45.  Reeva meets her management team at Capacity Relations in Woodmead, Sandton. Simphiwe Majola, her manager says she was excited about upcoming projects.

Capacity Relations has already admitted that they did not consider a public relationship with Pistorius beneficial to Reeva's brand.  

Reeva also said in her messages to Pistorius that she wanted to give her career precedence in terms of their relationship.  In terms of her/their decision to stall Heat magazine's expose about their relationship (Heat wanted the couple in a Valentine's Day splash) this would confirm a specific strategy aimed at trying to protect her brand.
She leaves the offices at around 15:40.


It's likely that immediately after this meeting, on the way to Pistorius' house, Reeva called her mother.

According to June Steenkamp, Reeva's mother: On the night she died, when she was on her way to Oscar's house, we talked about her sending us money to pay our cable television bill.

At 16:45 : Reeva emails Nimue Skin Technology SA. She is an ambassador for them and apologises that she won't be attending the announcement of a new jewellary line.  Reeva's email reads: “I would like to wish Sarah all the best for her launch later today if you could please pass on my blessings! Reeves.”

Reeva's last tweet: “I’m there like a ­bear!!! Yayyyy!!!! X” after an invitation from Candy McKenna (general manager at Mini's Sandton-branch) to have cupcakes at Sandton Mini Cooper on Thursday (Valentine's Day).

Now considers Reeva's mindspace:

1. She's hard at work managing her brand
2. Her ex-boyfriend, though putting on a brave face, is still insecure and still not over her.
3. Her parents are struggling financially and she is trying her utmost to assist them.
4. She's had encouraging news from her management company of upcoming projects.  It's likely that they've reinforced the notion that her relationship with Pistorius must be placed on the 'backburner', and somewhat out of the public eye.  Given that neither Reeva nor Pistorius publically say they are spending Valentine's Day together, or even publically interact on twitter or facebook, this may have irked Pistorius.  Extremely aware of his personal brand, it's likely he saw Reeva as someone who could help his brand, leverage his celebrity.  For her to request that they keep their brands separate, and worse, refuse to publically mention him was tantamount to sabotage.  It was her not endorsing his global brand and it was not helping, and it's likely this came up over dinner.
"So how did your meeting go with Capacity Relations?"

Now, given the facts above, let's draw a few inferences. Let's speculate, let's imagine, let's intuit what could conceivably have happened given the information we have.

1. According to Pistorius they had dinner at 7pm and were done after about 20 minutes.  It's unfortunate that Nel didn't ask Pistorius to talk about what he and Reeva discussed over dinner.  That said, Pistorius probably would have said "I don't remember." It's possible though that an argument may have started at this point in the evening, which led to Reeva not eating or not finishing her dinner (hence she was still hungry a few hours later).

When asked to explain Saayman's (the pathologist's) assessment, Pistorius admitted that he couldn't.

Gert Saayman said Steenkamp had eaten about two hours before her death, around the time a neighbour heard an argument at the house. Pistorius, who claimed they were both asleep at that time, admitted: “I don't have an explanation for it.” 

Read more: http://www.theweek.co.uk/world-news/oscar-pistorius/53387/oscar-pistorius-trial-reeva-had-no-time-scream#ixzz2zQZz4REo


Since Pistorius was helping Reeva with her contracts, he would have known exactly what was happening in her career, and crucially, how that affected him, and his brand.

2. They could have argued over a range of topics, among them Capacity Relations strategy to keep Reeva's relationship with Pistorius under wraps.  Pistorius wouldn't have liked that.  Another possible issue: Reeva's meeting with ex-boyfriend Warren Lahoud 36 hours before she was shot to death.  During that meeting Pistorius called her twice in 20 minutes, prompting Lahoud to ask if everything was okay. Look carefully at Lahoud's last tweet before Reeva's death. It was on the same day of his meeting with her:

Sometimes, all you have to do is forget what you feel and remember what you deserve!

What does Lahoud tweet after he finds out she is dead? Miss you Reeves you didn't deserve this #ReevaSteenkamp. (so he was clearly referring to her in that post-coffee tweet.)

But consider the significance of these tweets by Lahoud:

“Do not chase people. Be you and do your own thing and work hard. The right people who belong in your life will come to you. And stay,” Lahoud wrote on Nov. 27, 2012.
“As long as there is a small flame the fire is never out!” he added on Dec. 2, just two months before Steenkamp’s death.

[Note: Incidentally but not insignificantly, Warren Lahoud's Twitter feed has since been protected.]
Reeva presents herself on social media, that afternoon and evening,  in a good mood.

On the 13th she tweets:

What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay

But she doesn't mention Pistorius and Pistorius doesn't mention her.

On the same day she retweets this message: WEAR BLACK THIS FRIDAY IN SUPPORT AGAINST #RAPE AND WOMAN ABUSE #BLACKFRIDAY

Her second to last tweet is to punt a ‘sneak peak’ of her appearance in the reality show, Tropika Islands of Treasure.

Previous whatsapp messages highlight Pistorius' insecurity about her trip to the island.  Her response is that she's not a 'ho'.  Her appearance on TV is a big breakthrough for her, while at the same time Pistorius' face is splashed across Johannesburg as part of a MNET 'Oscar' (as in Academy Awards) campaign.  Pistorius' last tweet on February 13 is a retweet about exactly that:

Tonight’s movie is The Town which is written, directed and stars Ben Affleck.

A further possibility for an argument may have come from her final message on facebook.  Which was to say ‘Thank you’.
Thank you Tim Tim Hulme-Photo and People Mag for an amazing shoot! Just in time for Valentines Day :)

This may have reminded Pistorius that instead of the couple appearing together on Valentine's Day, Reeva would be appearing on her own.  He may have resented this 'one-upmanship' in the media, and felt he wasn't 'getting the goods' he needed for his brand and image.

3. Now, did Reeva intend to spend the night of the 13th at Pistorius' home?  Given the clothing she was found in, hardly pajamas, this seems, on the face of it, unlikely. The short pants she was wearing, it has been established, were Pistorius'.  Recall she had an overnight bag with her, but she'd slept the previous night at his home, and possibly only intended cooking him dinner before going home.  If she did not intend to sleep over on the 13th, specifically to 'slow down' the relationship, it's possible she slept over on the 12th in order to ward off any possible resentment for not sleeping over on the 13th.  The fact that she had a meeting scheduled that same night may also have impacted her decision on whether to stay over, or not.  

In her final text message, Reeva SMS’s best friend Gina Myers and Cecil Myers (her 'Joburg dad') a man who thinks of Reeva as his own daughter. Her message reads: "Hi guys, I’m too tired. It’s too far to drive. I’m sleeping at Oscar’s tonight. See you tomorrow."

This SMS, if one compares it to the exuberance and exclamation marks of her tweets, seems subdued. By saying 'I'm too tired' there's a hint that she's explaining a change of plan.  She's saying in effect why she's not returning home as planned/arranged.  Gina could comment on this.  On the other hand, even if she had intended to stay all along, at that late stage of the evening Reeva may also have felt tired and drained from arguing.

It's possible that after an extended period of bickering and arguing going on through the night, Reeva changed her mind.  She wanted to leave, said so, and this caused Pistorius to snap.  A night he'd hoped would produce romance and intimacy besides dinner (rather than a discussion about her career, her TV appearances and her commitments) may have been a devastating and disappointing blow to him.  Had she had a change of heart?   Was Lahoud back in the picture? No, he wasn't interested in reading her card, or opening her gift.  Well, where was his gift to her?

Then it only escalated.  At one point, later in the evening, following her late night SMS, Reeva ate something. Possibly she felt trapped, wanting to leave, wanting to sleep, but Pistorius couldn't settle down, and wouldn't calm down. Possibly neither could sleep after the initial argument. Possibly she was in two minds about leaving, but he wouldn't stop arguing with her. She would have tried to avoid an argument, avoid confronting him.  When Reeva finally told him she wanted to go home, Pistorius may have shouted "Get the fuck out of my house."

After Reeva packed her things she struggled with Pistorius, trying to get dressed.  At this point he may have wrestled with her or hit her. Then, realising she couldn't get away, Reeva fled to the toilet and locked herself in it.  At this stage he was in a vicious rage, and Reeva was terrified. She was screaming for help.  To cover himself (still very aware of his reputation, and a possible incident in the media) Pistorius went to the balcony and also shouted help.  But what could he do now?  How could he prevent this story from coming out?

What was worse, Reeva had her phone with her in the toilet and he had no way of knowing whether she was about to send a message that would mean the collapse of his celebrity house of cards.

This (Reeva with her phone behind a closed door, whilst arguing) may well have made Pistorius feel trapped and terrified. Reeva may even have said, "If you don't let me go, if you don't stop, I'm calling the police."  If Reeva were to tell the media (or anyone) about the catastrophic evening his brand would suffer a colossal blow.  He would have felt like he couldn't afford that. All his carefully co-ordinated efforts to craft his image would be undone.  Based on a quick assessment, the only way to silence her was to kill her and then cover it up somehow.  At least then his brand would have a chance, because there'd only be his story, and he could tailor it any way he wanted.  A calculated risk, and took it.

Reeva isn't going to help my brand anyway...as it is...he may have rationalized.
It's three o' clock in the morning, no one's going to be sure what they heard.
Half the plots of land around me are vacant, so no eye witnesses. 
I'll buy off the neighbours, gardeners, whoever I need to...The Hawks will help with that.

The fact that he shot her whilst on his stumps is interesting.  It suggests a spontaneous, impulsive act, but it's also possible with her behind the door, he had a chance to think, and when the intention formed to murder her, so did the idea of an intruder.  It's possible that he was on his prosthesis all along, but with her behind the door, he removed his prosthesis when he shot her, specifically to give merit to his I-was-a-helpless-victim-I-thought-she-was-a-burglar charade.

Of course the testimony of witnesses such as Ms Burger has been devastating to his case.

“I heard her voice just after the last shot,’’ Ms Burger said. “It faded away.’’

If it was intentional, once he discovered her body, still alive in the toilet, he would have to make sure she died before anyone arrived.  This meant he needed time, but at the time needed to appear to be trying to help her.  
It's possible that in that moment, seeing her bloodied body, he regretted his actions (personally I doubt it). Instead of calling the ambulance himself Pistorius calls the estate manager and tells him to call an ambulance. This buys him some time.  When security calls him he says, "Everything's fine."  For the same reason.
When the paramedics arrive, he has a last chance to run upstairs and change the scene the way he wants it to look.  This may include putting her bag on the chair, deleting phone messages etc.

Given Pistorius' behaviour since the incident (going to a party in April 2013), and hooking up with a new girlfriend by December, it's likely that he feels fully entitled to a chance to resume his celebrity lifestyle.  Judge Masipa may think differently.


Postscript: Has it been fully and finally established on which side of the bed the pistol was?  In this graphic it suggests the left side (Reeva's side), but other information (including photos) suggest the right.  Either way, Pistorius has a problem when explaining the retrieval of the weapon and why he failed to confirm where Reeva was (when she ought to have been within a metre of less of his head).

In his version he needs a scenario that allows the room to be completely dark with his back turned to the bed, so as to allow Reeva the possibility of getting to the toilet unsighted.  And thus this is the only version Pistorius could come up with to explain how that might have happened.  But it's clearly improbable.

David Goldblatt: The ultimate portrait

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An Easter Statement Analysis of Oscar Pistorius - Additional Inconsistencies

by Nick van der Leek 

It’s Easter, a celebration of the March equinox. It’s that time of the year when day and night are of equal duration. It happens twice a year; the second equinox is in September. Easter, lest we forget celebrates death, fertility and resurrection.

The name itself derives from Ēostre, a dawn goddess from Germanic paganism. Even the pagans celebrated Easter; the beginning of spring, a time for planting crops, newborn lambs, the darling buds of May and a season of warmer weather. Of course in South Africa Easter heralds the opposite. The onset of winter here heralds a deadline. By now all crops ought to have been harvested, all stalks reaped. But not Oscar Pistorius.

 The case continues, and is likely to take us well into winter. Will we have a verdict by September? Probably. But as the trial unfolds, those Easter themes don't disappear. Yes, they aren’t going away. What were they again? Death. Fertility. Resurrection. Let’s examine them in reverse order.

Resurrection? 

On the 10th of April, Rebecca Davis wrote an analysis published in The Daily Maverick titled: WILL THE REAL OSCAR PISTORIUS PLEASE STAND UP. In her analysis Davis astutely highlights one aspect of particularly Christian import. In fact it was a specifically ‘Easter’ pledge. With Reeva bleeding to death in his arms, Oscar cried out (to an audience of at least three people) that he would dedicate his life (and Reeva’s) to God, if she would only live. Of this, Davis writes: “We can’t know the precision with which Stipp recalled Pistorius’ exact words, but there’s an intriguingly proprietary aspect in promising someone else’s life to God on their behalf.” Indeed.

In the same article Davis highlights something else worth noting. Oscar’s uncle Arnold, just two weeks into the trial, approached June Steenkamp and told her: “Like you we are trying to fight for a life and a life lost.” But think about that for a second. No really, take a second. What life are we talking about that is lost here? In Oscar’s own words: “I’ve taken responsibility, by not wanting to live my life but waiting for my time on the stand to tell my story.” Davis suggests that Oscar sees his year waiting for trial as ‘a form of sufficient penance’.

Of course we know during this time he had his bail conditions relaxed, he was seen in Mozambique, he resumed training and was spotted visiting the odd watering hole. In April last year, on the heels of an apology posted on his website, Oscar apparently flirted with women at a party at the Kitchen Bar restaurant. It was the party of tow-truck baron, Craig Lipschitz, a man who hit the headlines himself in 2008 for his involvement in a vicious brawl with an ex-bouncer in Sandton. Just prior to this appearance Pistorius’ spokesman said: "There is not a moment in the day that Oscar does not mourn for his girlfriend, and Reeva's family and all those who were close to her are in his thoughts constantly."

Yes it does seem as though he has thought a lot about her. And what was in it for her. And what happened to her. And what it must have felt like being dead for the past year. All this whilst entering into a new relationship with a brunette teenager.

Fertility? 

Make no mistake, celebrity is a form of idolatry. But this hero is a fake. And there is no end to it; the fakery, the theatre and the mockery goes on. The Pistorians (oddly enough all women) want to be clear that even a murderer is worthy of hugs, balloons and our love. Really?

More recently, Jani Allen has expressed the outrage that is so sorely missing from every discussion of this case. If there is outrage, it’s measured. It’s stoic, just as the Steenkamp family have been stoic, and even forgiving. But if our authentic feelings aren’t good enough, what is appropriate under these circumstances?

Here’s a shocker. It is not the public’s job to reserve judgement. We are not lawyers, we are society. We aren’t judges either, it is true, but we are (or should be) the arbiters in the end of our own culture, and standards. Our job is to care and to develop a public response. A social reaction. The question we're being asked is this: Is this world we live in the world we want? Are these the sort of people we admire? Do we want people like this to be an integral part of our social fabric? Should we aspire to this? Are these people of the sort we ought to accept? And is this who we are?

 Allen writes: “...the life you led was without spirit. It was a wasteland filled with expensive toys and recidivist acts. The sound of your delighted cackles as you shot at a watermelon – a zombie-stopper – I believe you called it, was so disparate from your whiny-girly mimsy court voice that it’s difficult not to burst out laughing while listening to you. Oscar, I look at you mewling and puking in the witness stand. You truly represent everything that the West loathes about white South Africans who live extravagant lives in their expensive laagers.”

In a word, Oscar represents entitlement. Entitlement is another word for privilege. What privileges do the rich enjoy? Is the life of another expendable to my own hearts desires? Can the life of a person be compared to sums of money hanging in the balance? If you can offer up someone’s life to God while they are dying (and on their behalf) to save yourself, you are suffering from narcissism of the highest order, and that's low. Underneath that narcissism, beneath the veneer of manicured suits, clipped fingernails, acting lessons and PR is something of incomparable ugliness.

 And now, without further ado, the inconsistencies 

1.Whilst on the stand, during cross-examination by the state prosecutor, Oscar made this slip. “The more famous I am the more money...” He started saying this and then corrected himself: “The more famous I am doesn't mean the more money I make”. Let's forget for the moment that this is in itself both untrue and disingenuous.

Gerrie Nel had just referenced Oscar’s message to Reeva: "Angel please don't say a thing to any one..." Asking to explain this message, Oscar (avoiding eye contact with Nel) said, "I didn't want [it]to be in the media.” Why wouldn’t he though? Because of the money that would be at stake. Oscar says as much when he uses the word “afford”. He can’t afford this to be in the media, he says, but he can. He’s wealthy. It’s not a positive story by any means, but it wouldn’t be the end of his world. Would it dent his image and perhaps curtail a bonus here or there, absolutely. What is important here is the admission. Because it points directly to avarice.

2. "No, My Lady, Reeva was never scared of me, My Lady.” This was Oscar’s response to Reeva’s whatsapp messages, with Nel putting it to Oscar that she was often afraid of him. The question is: Are we supposed to take this denial at face value? Bearing in mind Michelle Burger’s testimony of terrified screams, screams of a woman who knew her life was in danger, screams that were reaching a climax, screams like jackals that still haunt her a year later. Screams that reduced her to tears when Nel asked Burger to recollect them. Those same screams launched two husbands out of their beds and onto their balconies in the dead of the night. The critical slip of the tongue here? It’s in the word ‘never’.

 Has Oscar forgotten when Reeva phoned her mother whilst in Oscar’s car?  When Reeva told June Steenkamp he was scaring her by driving recklessly fast? June Steenkamp says this was the one and only time (until Reeva’s death) she spoke to Oscar, and what she said was: “I warned him that if he hurt my baby in any way I would wipe him out.”

Death?

But South African society seems to have adopted the same polite stoicism in the face of a man who not only hurt that baby (whom he called ‘baba’), but shot her to death. It’s difficult to overemphasise the violence of her death.

3.A pathologist recently described the bullet wound to her arm as the equivalent of “an instant amputation.” When Oscar describes it he uses the most benign euphemism possible. “Her arm was broken.”

4. When Oscar describes Reeva his descriptions are mute and constrained. But his descriptions of everyone else are in the finest details. “The officer had shorts on...they were casually dressed...” He even tells us where they were standing, what they say to him, their gestures and movements. About Stipp we even get a psychological assessment. “He seemed overwhelmed by the...the situation.” Stipp was a doctor, and what he discovered was basically a young woman who had been shot to death. If her injuries had not killed her, the loss of blood had. If there was nothing he could do to save her, this does not mean he was overwhelmed.

Oscar describes himself shouting and screaming, but would probably stop short at using his own word (overwhelmed) on himself.

 5. When Oscar describes finding Reeva in the bathroom, breathing again, he describes sitting on his ‘bum’. When he describes how she is sitting, in later testimony, he uses the word ‘buttock’.

Of the incident itself he says: “I perceived someone coming out of the toilet...” Perceived is another manufactured word. We don't speak like that. Imagined is better, but ‘I thought I saw’ (if it really happened) is the most authentic.

6.Speaking about her corpse, Oscar asks us to believe how sensitive he is:“When I saw Reeva I got sick.” Yet he was able to carry her body downstairs, and put his fingers in her mouth.

7.Consider the detail in Oscar describing where he stood when the medical team attended to her body. “I stood where the dining room and kitchen kind’ve meet...” He’s describing in detail his open plan house and uses a casual term like ‘kind’ve’ to describe the scene and context when Reeva was pronounced dead.

Conclusion 

Life is not fair. People get away with things all the time, from the lowest bottom dwellers to the highest pond scum. Politicians and pickpockets. Jilted lovers and the jobless. Absent parents and their ungrateful offspring. We care about accountability because accountability matters. Accountability is part of the Natural Order of Things. It’s a key tenet of every faith, but you don’t have to be a believer to know or appreciate the idea of responsibility. It is not enough for justice to be done, we need to see it being done, so that we have at least some confidence in society, in authority, in our fellow man and ourselves. We enjoy the freedoms we have exactly because we know others respect our personal rights, and we reciprocate. When this social contract breaks down it matters. It’s worthy of our attention.

 If anything good can be resurrected out of the interminable Easter-time of this trial,this movable feast, it is this: we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to recognise when others are not being honest with us. In our relationships, in our families, in our living and the sharing of our lives with others in this world. We must remember that justice and accountability are one and the same. When we self-examine ourselves, as this trial asks us to do, we become better people, and we make a better society. When we examine ourselves life becomes fairer. When we remember accountability integrity returns. When we’re honest, living becomes authentic and the people around us more genuine. More real. Isn’t that a result worth celebrating?

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Oscar: the mouse behind the mask

“I was more into her at times than she was into me.” This was one of Oscar Pistorius’ opening gambits on Day 18. Ironically, at that very moment the camera focused on Reeva’s blonde cousin, Kim Martin. Martin, seated beside Gina Myers (Reeva’s best friend), made a grim remark that looked like “No wonder”.

Stoic is the word being used to describe the Steenkamp camp. June Steenkamp’s stoicism is nothing short of remarkable. This is the vital clue to understanding the ‘unbalanced’ dynamic of Oscar and Reeva’s relationship. Reeva Steenkamp was the older, more secure and stoic of the two, Oscar had more of the power and authority, but also an immature obsessiveness and insecurity that even Reeva described to Oscar as frightening.

Stoic is the last word that comes to mind if we we’re describing Oscar right now. Increasingly there are whispers that Oscar’s weepy testimony, in fact his entire defence, is simply a perpetuation of his original narrative – which is playing to an audience all the time. Arguably, Oscar has been doing this since his school days. Because his sense of self is derived through the eyes of others (the world, the media, brands, women, friends and the able-bodied world) he absolutely cannot abandon his own ‘melodrama’. To do so is the equivalent of self-destruction. His ‘performance’ therefore is his supreme effort at self preservation.

This is a crazy case where Oscar is both the perpetrator and the victim. And because Oscar is the only person who really knows what happens, he is writing the script, and will write it as long as there is an audience to appreciate its veracity. The script, currently a work in progress, is reshaping the ‘I-am-the-bullet-in-the-gun’ narrative, the hyper masculine, confident, handsome champion into an inversion. Oscar now wants nothing to do with guns, is so terrified he hides in a cupboard like a child, speaks like a child, doesn’t even have the constitution to see pictures of blood or to hear about what he did on that fateful day. Instead of the virile victor who overcame enormous odds, we’re seeing a crying ‘boy-man’ carefully taking us through ‘smiley faces’ and counting the number of kisses.

The terms of endearment the couple used may seem cute, but using baby names after arguments is hardly the stuff of mature argument resolution. Rather, it appears to be one-dimensional appeasement. It has suggestions of passive-aggressive personality. This trial is nothing if not an enormous backward flip from aggressive to the point of overkill, back to passive to the point of a crybaby.

Worringly, we see Reeva trying to adapt to Oscar’s expectations. Both had made it their vocations to court public opinion, and so measuring themselves up to others opinions may have felt natural. Reeva herself admits the difficulties she was having in trying to sculpt her body down to the required 52kg. At the same time, Reeva was instinctively trying to play the nurturing and supportive role. She said, “I don’t want to make a spectacle out of us.” Did he? Following the 2012 Olympics, and his defeat, Oscar’s star was waning, and he desperately needed a new narrative. Reeva fitted the bill, something Oscar alludes to on numerous occasions (“I was bowled over by her.”) Reeva’s concessions to him may have achieved little more than enable his vanity, his possessiveness, his moodiness and his controlling behaviour.. Reeva, a well known personality in her own right, and a professional model, asked Oscar, for example, if she could wear a certain leopard print dress for a formal occasion. This concession alone ought to have indicated to her that their relationship lacked fundamental substance.

In terms of Oscar’s descriptions of his own actions at Tasha’s and driving from the Vaal, and his precise description of objects of furniture (but not what Reeva was saying or doing) on Valentine’s Day there is more than a mere suggestion that Oscar has a knack for whitewashing his narrative. Samantha Taylor, Oscar’s girlfriend before Reeva Steenkamp, immediately deleted this emotional tweet during Oscar’s testimony on Day 18: “Last lies you get to tell. You better make it worth your while.” Are Oscar’s versions of events accurate? Thus far he has contradicted close to a dozen witnesses, including going so far as to say he never fired the shot through the roof of the car.

What we do see plenty of is disassociation. This is illustrated by repeated head over hands, fingers in ears and he never really assumes accountability. We saw the same thing when he was beaten unexpectedly by the Brazilian in 2012, and immediately Pistorius – feeling himself invalidated, his ego bruised – publically lost his temper. During his testimony his evidence is whitewashed, describes Reeva's arm as 'broken' and that she is not 'breathing'. He can't remember fetching plastic bags but he remembers a policeman putting his hand on his shoulder. He describes being told by a paramedic that "Reeva has passed", and blames Stipp, saying "he seemed overwhelmed, didn't seem to know what he was doing." Interestingly, Stander and his daughter both seemed to be asking Pistorius to leave Reeva (or leave her body) alone, saying the ambulance was on its way. But Pistorius took total control of her body throughout.

The stage management of the Oscar Pistorius trial is also impossible to ignore now. While it may seem that Oscar’s lengthy testimony is all about providing relevant biographical details, the rehashing of innumerable lovey dovey whatsapp messages ad infinitum hardly addresses the heart of their relationship. In fact, his failure to get away from these endless whatsapp quotes suggests the exact opposite, that there wasn’t much substance to go on to begin with. The stage management by Oscar’s defence team can be ‘felt’ not only through the “I’m-a-poor-boy-from-a-poor-family” vibe via Oscar’s trembling voice, but also through the precision and co-ordination of the blocks of testimony fitted in between tea and other breaks. Oscar’s apology to June Steenkamp did not take place by accident. It was a calculated ploy to play to an audience when that audience would have been at its maximum. He had over a year to write a private apology, and if written words were not sufficient, were words in court and on camera any more so?

There are also some basic and fundamental questions that still need to be answered. One, where are Oscar’s next door neighbours? What happened to Oscar’s phone in the period between the killing and after he handed it in? Why did Oscar have his fingers in Reeva’s mouth at the bottom of the stairs if she had stopped breathing when he found her in the toilet? And what were Oscar’s real intentions at 03:16 on 14 February 2013. In a word, why?

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Barry Roux prepares Oscar for 'sympathy vote'

It's easy to imagine that when Oscar Pistorius testified on Monday, the 7th of April, following an expert witness, that this was 'spontaneous'.

 Of course the defense has been preparing Oscar Pistorius for over a year, and had a full week gifted to them prior to Monday thanks to illness of one of the assessors.

 Except the illness of the assessor now makes Oscar's testimony, in retrospect, somewhat less authentic.

 Here's why. First of all, the opening 3 acts of Oscar's testimony (all conducted in the first half hour)are as follows.

 1. A tearful apology, while at the same time making no concessions, and at the same time giving reasons why no apology was given sooner (I couldn't put it down in words, words would never be enough etc).
 2. A weepy admission by Oscar that he is on antidepressants, suffering from insomnia, weightloss and 'scared at night'.
 3. A trembling anecdote about him waking up terrified and hiding, and because he will never touch guns again, was so scared, he called his sister to babysit him. All these formed part of Roux's opening gambit, and all three were clearly calculated to solicit sympathy.

 None provide facts crucial to the case, or concessions of any importance, except for the first, where the timing of Oscar's apology could be argued as strategic, opportunistic and performance contrived for his first and biggest public declaration since killing Steenkamp in February 2013. The contrivance is even more credible given the timid 'baby voice' of Oscar Pistorius, apparently close to tears, even after the lunch break, close to an hour later, when testifying about his successes, and travelling abroad. Does this 'little boy' voice sound much like Oscar Pistorius does during his many recorded interviews?

 There was a further card played by the defense basically portraying Oscar as a 'good guy', a Christian from a Christian family who was only following his late mother's example in terms of his fondness for guns (she kept one under her pillow).

 More sympathy was solicited based on the focus of the circumstances of her death, and the pain and discomfort surrounding abrasions caused by having to wear his artificial legs (especially during long flights). The boating accident is painted in meticulous details, sights and smells, but Pistorius is vague about what object was hit in the water, and who was at fault, if anyone, and what was the actual cause of the accident.

 The point of this scenario is to say that it caused a 'turning point' in his life, which led to Oscar becoming very careful, and taking pains to look after himself and presumably, live more responsibly. (This added caution apparently did not encompass a love for deadly weapons, habitually driving well over the speed limit or any admission of anger problems). 

It will be interesting to see how Oscar Pistorius stands up to cross-examination from Nel. If it is a performance, perhaps his best strategy is to cry and have breakdowns throughout. If that is the case, the cross-examination is likely to last for the rest of the week, and even longer. But expect plenty of opportunities to 'feel sorry' for Oscar. This has been his defense from the beginning.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Irving Feffer's Gamebreaking Speech (from Along Came Polly)

Irving Feffer: It's not about what happened in the past, or what you think might happen in the future. It's about the ride, for Christ's sake. There is no point in going through all this crap, if your are not going to enjoy the ride. And you know what... when you least expect something great might come along. Something better then you even planned for.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

22 Questions For Oscar Pistorius

Link to OP's original affidavit here.

1. At 22H00 your legs were off and you say you were in bed watching television.  What did you have for dinner, and when did you and Reeva have dinner?  What were you watching on television, which side of the bed were you on, on which side of the bed is your handgun, and on which side of the bed are your fans?

2. Reeva's shoes and overnight bag were on the left side of the bed.  Your gun was under the bed, on which side?

3. What woke you up early in the morning of 14 February?  What did you say to Reeva when you got up to get the fan, and why were the fans outside to begin with?

4. If you were hot, why not simply open the door to let cool air in?  Why not turn the air conditioner/thermostat on? As it was you brought the fans in then did nothing with them because you thought you heard a noise? Could that noise not have been Reeva opening the bathroom window because she was also hot?

5. After you say you heard the bathroom window slide open, you screamed for Reeva to call the police.  What did she answer?

6. You were too scared to switch a light on, it was pitch dark in the bedroom, yet you were able to find your gun and walk towards the bathroom? How long did that take?  While you were walking in the pitch dark, did you not hear Reeva in bed behind you or any other sounds coming from the bathroom?  Or was it a case that in your terror you walked quickly forward screaming, and thus screaming, were deaf to any noises coming either from Reeva or the intruder? In other words, you weren't listening to ascertain what was happening either in front or behind you.

7. Did the light in the bathroom not provide any light to make it less pitch dark in the bedroom?  Also, did the lights from the house opposite yours (opposite the balcony with the curtains, blinds and fans) not produce ambient light against the curtains?

8. You heard movement in the toilet, and the door was closed.  What sort of movement did you hear?  Did you ask who it was?  And having shouted to call the police, did the 'intruder' behind the door, who was Reeva, remain silent throughout?

9.  If the intruder (Reeva) remained silent, did you scream hysterically, and this sounded like a woman?

10.  Can you demonstrate, right now, how you scream like a woman?  Possibly the witnesses can listen and see whether these sounds coincide with the sounds they heard.

11. If you were so terrified, why did you approach the danger?

12. If you were so terrified, why did you not make any attempt to find out where Reeva was, and how she was?  If there was an intruder in the house, was it not possible that Reeva and the intruder could have been in the toilet at the same time?

13. You found the toilet door closed.  In fact it was locked and bathroom light was on.  Even so you elected to shoot through the closed (locked) door. In your affidavit you say: "I fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to phone the police." Did you know at that point that both phones were in the bathroom?  Was it also pitch dark in the bathroom, is that why you didn't see your/her phone?   So you were firing shots whilst shouting?  Could you not have shouted, who is there?  Could you have fired a warning shot? Why did you fire four shots?  Why did you fire four shots in four different directions? Why did you fire shots directed towards the toilet?  If the intruder was using the toilet, or sitting on the toilet, you should have been aware that you were not in any imminent danger. Why not one or two?  Also, why did you stop shooting after the fourth shot?  Also, why did you stop shouting after the fourth shot?  Surely you had no idea who was behind the door and if there was still a danger?  Why did you stop shouting to Reeva after the fourth shot?

14. At what point did you shout Help Help Help?

15. When you reached the bed you realised Reeva was not in bed.  How come?  Could you see her, or did you feel that she was not there?  Once again, with the bathroom light on, how could the bedroom still be pitch dark?

16. After you found your toilet door locked, and realised Reeva wasn't in bed, you say you opened the balcony door and went outside and screamed for help.  Is that when you screamed Help Help Help?  And it was only you screaming at this point?  And this was after 03:17?  Did the nieghbours opposite your balcony with all the lights on not hear anything? Why have the neighbours nearest your house not testified as to what they saw or heard?

17. Why did you not call an ambulance at this point?  And why call for help if you had shot through a door and had no idea what happened, if anything?  Reeva may have been downstairs?  Why not check downstairs and try to find out where she is. Why would she be in the bathroom necessarily, and not an intruder? How would you have known anyone was necessarily behind the door?

18. You put on your prosthetics presumably with enough light coming through the curtains, and then went to the bathroom to kick the door on, during which time you 'think' you turned the light on.  Did you or didn't you?

19. You bashed the door open with a cricket bat.  How long did it take to break open the locked door? By this time you had still not called for Reeva, or the police or an ambulance.

20. You found Reeva still alive, slumped over the toilet. You don't mention that she was bleeding or any of the wounds you'd inflicted on her.  You also don't mention the bullets you used, how many bullets you fired, or the blood on the floor.  What did you do to help Reeva besides drag her out of the toilet?  Did you say anything to her, did she say anything to you?

21. Surely, given the extent of her injuries, it would have been better to treat the deceased where she still was, and carrying her downstairs, on prosthetics, risked further injury to her.  Why was no attempt made to stop her bleeding upstairs?  Was a tourniquet used?

22. You tried to render assistance to Reeva, but she died in your arms.  You had two fingers in Reeva's mouth when the doctor arrived.  If she was trying to speak or breathe (since she was still alive) and your intention was - after all - to kill her, surely by controlling her airways you could control whether she could incriminate you or not?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Reeva in her own words (via Whatsapp)

27/01/2013
16H17:34

I’m not 100% sure why I am sitting down to type you a message first but perhaps it says alot about what’s going on here. Today was one of my best friend’s engagements and I wanted to stay longer.  I was enjoying myself, but it’s over now. You have picked on me incessantly, since you got back from CT and I understand that you are sick, but it’s nasty. Yesterday wasn’t nice for either of us but we managed to pull through and communicate well enough to show our care for each other is greater than the drama that attacked us. 
I was not flirting with anyone today. I feel sick that you suggested that and that you made a scene at the table and made us leave early. I’m terribly disappointed in how the day ended and how you left me. We are living in a double-standard relationship where you can be mad about how I deal with stuff when you are very quick to act, cold and offish, when you are unhappy. Every five seconds I hear how you’ve dated another chick. You really have dated a lot of people, yet you get upset if I mention one funny story with a long term boyfriend. I do everything to make you happy, and to not say anything to rock the boat with you. You do everything to throw tantrums in front of people. I have been upset by you for two days now. 
I’m so upset, I left Darren’s party early.  So upset I can’t get that day back. I’m scared of you sometimes, and of how you snap at me, and how will react to me sometimes. You make me happy 90% of the time, and I think we are amazing together but I am not some other bitch now trying to kill your vibe. 
I am the girl who let go with you, even when I was scared out of my mind to.  I am the girl who fell in love with you and wanted to tell you this weekend. But I am also the girl who gets sidestepped when you are in a shit mood. When I feel you have done so why try anymore?  I get snapped at, and told my accent and voices are annoying. I touch your neck to show you I care.  You tell me to stop.  Stop chewing gum. Do this.  Don’t do that. You don’t want to hear stuff.  Cut me off. Your endorsements.  Your reputation. Your impression of someone innocent blown out of proportion fucked up a special day for me. I’m sorry if you truly felt I was hitting on my friend Sam’s husband. And I’m sorry that you think that little of me. 
From the outside I think it looks like we are a struggle and maybe that’s what we are. I just want to love and be loved, be happy and make someone so happy. Maybe we can’t do that for each other because right now I know you aren’t happy and I’m certainly very unhappy and sad. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Oscar Pistorius -Mentoring, marketing and the risk of attaching brands to people - by Nick van der Leek

Note: This article originally appeared in 2013 in the INSIGHT section of Finweek magazine.

Is 13 an unlucky number? The year 2013 has gotten off to a rocky start in world sport. First Lance, now Oscar.
Even if nothing else goes wrong, it’s already an annus horribilis. So what’s happening to our heroes, and why? These are crucial questions for the $750bn sports industry. But perhaps the most important
question is how did it happen to our boy?

The upside

Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius was born in Sandton, in 1986. Pistorius grew up in a
Christian home with an elder brother,Carl, and a younger sister, Aimée. Due to
a congenital absence of fibulae, both legs were amputated halfway between his knees
and ankles at 11 months of age. He attended Pretoria Boys High and played water
polo and tennis at provincial level. He also participated in wrestling. In June 2003 he
suffered a knee injury and began runningto aid rehabilitation in early 2004 at the
University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre. Ampie Louw was and remains his
coach. That same year Pistorius competed in his first Paralympics (in Athens) where
he won a gold and bronze medal.In August last year Oscar Pistorius
became the first amputee to compete at the Olympic Games, which brought his fame
to its zenith as it reached a worldwide audience.“As I came out of the tunnel, I saw
my friends and family, including my grandmother with the South African flag,”
he said. “On the blocks, I didn’t know whether I should cry or be happy.”

He came second in the first heat of the 400m (in 45.44, a season’s best), but finished
last in the semi-final (46.54 seconds).In the 4 × 400 metres relay race final on
10 August, SA’s relay team finished eighth out of nine in a season’s best time for the
team. Pistorius ran the final leg in 45.9 seconds. He carried the country’s flag during
the closing ceremony.

Following appearances on Letterman and Larry King Live, Tom Hanks began
bidding for the film rights to the “Blade Runner” story. Later in the same year Time
magazine included Pistorius in its list of the World’s 100 Most Influential People.
By the end of 2012 the young South African had set up a compelling tale. He was
enjoying worldwide popularity and sufficient financial security to splurge on a
R3.5m McLaren, which he described as “a Christmas present”.

The UK’s Guardian website called Pistorius “the golden boy with an edge of
steel”. Together with his glamorous girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, some Brits
described the couple as “South Africa’s answer to Posh and Becks”.

The downside

In 2002, Pistorius’s mother Sheila died as a result of adverse medical complications
related to an incorrect diagnosis. Her son credited her as one of the greatest influences
in his life and a major driving force behind his success. “There wasn’t much
scope for me to think about my disability as a disadvantage or to pity myself.” Instead
of introspection, Pistorius seemed to go overboard as an extrovert – fighting for a
place in the sun, dating a string of beautiful women, pushing aside potential rivals and
driving (and crashing) fast boats, cars and motorbikes.

In 2009 he survived a speedboat crash, which required 172 stitches in total. After
that he was in a motorbike crash. In his biography Blade Runner Pistorius is also
revealed to have crashed his car after falling asleep behind the wheel (en route to a
girlfriend after a fight). In 2009 he was arrested and charged with common assault
after an incident at a party (involving Cassidy Taylor-Memmory), and spent the
night in the local jail.

Following his ascendancy at the Olympics proper, Pistorius’s star began to fall as
early as September last year, when a Brazilian rival beat him into second place, leading
to a furious outburst. Realising he’d tarnished his squeaky clean image, Pistorius
quickly backtracked and issued an apology.

Later that month he appeared on thebeaches of the Seychelles in the SABC3
magazine show Top Billing with Samantha Taylor. But a New York paper appeared to
show a dalliance with a Russian model, Anastassia Khozzissova, while Pistorius
was in London.

Three months later, and back in SA, Pistorius threatened to break the legs of
former soccer player and Supersport commentator, Mark Batchelor, a friend of
Clifton Shores producer Quinton van der Burgh, when Pistorius discovered that
Taylor had cheated on him with Van den Burgh while he (Oscar) was at the Olympics.

But Taylor later said: “Oscar is certainlynot what people think he is.” In November he arrived at the SA Sports Awards in Sandton with law graduate and FHM model Reeva Steenkamp. Both were cagey about
whether they were in a relationship or not. “It’s just a coincidence that we’re sitting
at the same table and arrived in the same car,” Steenkamp demurred. At the end of
the evening they left together.

Taylor (who felt she was in a relationship with Oscar during the sports awards - and Taylor and Pistorius had in fact gone together to Sun City the previous week) also revealed that Steenkamp was dating a friend of Pistorius’s (Francois Hougaard).

Pistorius’s circle of friends, based on social media photos etc, seemed to include an
interesting “bad boys’ club”: the ex-con Gayton MacKenzie, rugby player Francois
Hougaard, South African professional boxer Kevin Lerena and Justin Divaris
(CEO of a luxury car retailer). The underlying theme to these friendships: fast cars,
big muscles, creepy tattoos, glamorous parties and beautiful women.

In an interview with Rapport, Taylor was “prepared to reveal what (Pistorius) made me go through”, but subsequently withdrew what she had said. In November 2012 The Star reported a charge of defamation
had been laid against Pistorius, who had in turn laid charges of intimidation against the former soccer player Marc Batchelor.

By the beginning of 2013, when Pistorius purchased a R3.5m sportscar, friends were worried that his insomnia and risky behaviour were getting worse. A visiting writer from The New York Times perhaps
came closest to uncovering the “other” Oscar, when he described Pistorius as “more than a little crazy”, citing a skittish, gun-loving insomniac with a “frenzied need to take on the world at maximum
speed and with minimum caution”. Pistorius alludes to his insomnia in the very same The New York Times magazine article by Michael Sokolove, describing a visit to an all-night tattoo parlour from 02:30 to
about 08:30 and a pattern of sleeping disorders.

The contents of the article itself probably did nothing to soothe Pistorius’s anxieties, especially this paragraph:
“The most provocative aspect of Weyand and Bundle’s argument – and clearly the biggest affront to Pistorius – is their calculation that the Cheetah blades, over the length of 400 meters, or once around
the track, give him an 11.9-second advantage.
That would make him no better than an average high school runner.”

Having to constantly fight for a place to race (and then also defend his achievements), rooming with an MMA fighter, and trying to be one of the boys would have exacted a constant, heavy toll. But
shooting at the local range was a questionable form of stress relief. One of the officers investigating the Silver Lakes crime scene is reported to have said, that in terms of the Domestic Violence Act, Pistorius
should not have been allowed to possess any firearms. He had seven pending
licences, including one for a semi-automatic.

Note: At the time of writing it was speculated, following the discovery of steroids and signs of heavy drinking in Pistorius’s house, that these might have fuelled “roid rage” and could partially explain how Pistorius may have woken up at 03:00 and mistaken Steenkamp for an intruder. These allegations were later dropped.

The result

Pistorius’s arrest is of course rock bottom for the sports marketer. While Pistorius’s agent Peet van Zyl assured the media that his client was still enjoying “overwhelming support” from “a lot of fans”, Van Zyl also
admitted that recent events were “from a management side… a tragic circumstance”.

He added: “We can only give Oscar our support at this point in time.”

But Oscargate is a nightmare of entirely different proportions to Lancegate. In fact while Armstrong’s prospects appear bleak, one can still see Lance maintaining a fanbase and continuing to compete and
enjoy public support. The same is a lot less clear with Pistorius, whose meteoric rise is based far more on public perception than actual performances.

It is perhaps surprising then that up to now some of Pistorius’s sponsors have yet to formally break ties. Ironically, Pistorius’s South African partner, M-Net, appears to be the first to have cut and run. Within
hours of the shooting at the upmarket Silver Lakes estate, M-Net was pulling down its billboards and dismantling its entire “Oscar Night” campaign with immediate effect. But Nike’s sponsorship of Pistorius,
thought to be worth $2m, is already under fire. The online ad for Nike featuring the unfortunately worded tagline “I am the bullet in the chamber” was quickly removed from Pistorius’s website, although it’s not the first time Nike has associated itself with the idea of gear-as-weaponry; in fact it is fairly common in competitive sport.

The US’s aerodynamic cycling rim maker ZIPP uses the tagline “Speed Weaponry”. At the time of writing the logos of Össur, BT, Oakley, Nike and fashion house Thierry Mugler (Pistorius’s five main sponsors) remain visible at www.oscarpistorius.com. Nike and co remain tight lipped and are, for the moment,
standing by their man.
[Note: All sponsors subsequently dumped Pistorius.]

Interestingly, while Nike no longer sponsors or endorses Lance Armstrong, and remains on the fence on the Pistorius case (“pending the police investigation”). Nike continues to endorse Tiger Woods.
Clearly, celebrity brand endorsement is a perilous journey, not only for the brand but for the athlete who stands to lose everything overnight. Can the brands that are associated with Pistorius afford to wait for
the case to be heard? One director of a sports sponsorship company says that “even if … found innocent, he is damaged goods.

Brands need to act quickly to distance themselves from him… It’s the sensible thing to do. The director of sports marketing agency Brand Rapport reinforces this view, saying: “This is very different to the Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong cases… There’s no coming back from this.”

Thus Iceland’s Össur, a global leader in orthopaedics, which is saying a decision is“highly premature”, may find itself singed by the firestorm of negative press that is likely to ensue.
While Nike is a high-powered brand and saw a fit in Pistorius’s tenacity, the brand will also wish to erase the associations in a recent video that features Pistorius (“My body is my weapon. This is how I fight.”)

Pistorius himself may rue theday he tattooed Corinthians 9:26-27 on to his back, which reads: “I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. I execute each strike with intent. I beat my body and make it my slave...”

In future, brands will need to do detailed background checks and re-evaluate
their current celebrity endorsements. ■
Nick van der Leek
nickvanderleek@gmail.com

“Nike routinely works with the best athletes in the world, and Oscar Pistorius
stands out on that list...” – Arturo
Nunez, Nike Emerging Markets Marketing
Director
Nike’s official message: “Nike extends
its deepest sympathy and condolences
to all families concerned following this
tragic incident. As it is a police matter,
Nike will not comment further at this
time.” Nike South Africa spokesperson
Seruscka Naidoo told AFP: “We’re not
commenting on our sponsorship or relationship.”
Naidoo added that the ‘I am
the bullet’ ad was on “Oscar’s website
[but] not a Nike-owned website.”
“BT’s relationship with Oscar has developed
over a number of years and we’re
extremely proud to be supporting such a
phenomenal athlete and human being.”
– Suzi Williams, BT
BT’s high-profile ‘Ambassador’ campaign
(significantly raising Pistorius’s
profile and used in 2012) was short listed
as ‘Best Sponsorship of a Sports Team or
Individual’ on 14 February, the day of the
incident. The following day a BT spokesperson
said: “We are shocked by this terrible,
tragic news. But we have no further
comment at this stage.”
“Oscar is a giant of modern sport. A pioneer.
The master not only of the possible
but the seemingly impossible.” – Jonathon
McEvoy, Olympics Correspondent,
Daily Mail
“As well as owning a pistol and machine
gun, at the time of Miss Steenkamp’s
death he reportedly had seven outstanding
firearm licence applications. One was
for same type of assault rifle used in the
recent Sandy Hook school massacre in
the US.” – Dan Newling, Daily Mail

Blade Runner ‘homicide’:
Breaking news worldwide
■ The Anguish of Oscar – The Times
■ Girls, guns and the dark side of the Blade Runner – Daily Mail
■ 3 shots. Screams. Silence. 3 more shots – The Sun
■ The Dark Side of Oscar Pistorius – The Independent
■ World icon in hell – El Pais (Spanish daily)
■ The bloodied destiny of Oscar Pistorius – Le Soir (Belgian daily)
■ Olympic hero shoots girlfriend dead – Bild (Germany’s biggest selling newspaper)
■ Amputee runner arrested. Gunned-down body found at Mr Pistorius’s home –
Mistook girlfriend as robber? – Asahi (Japan) ■
“What we have to ask ourselves about
big-time sports more broadly is how
we prepare great athletes for the
responsibilities of leadership. And I
don’t think we have good answers for
that.”
Mentoring programmes that enable
athletes to manage themselves, as athletes,
as people and as ‘brands’ to leverage
their exposure to the media – that’s
one option.
Another is from the client side.
Howard Bloom, writing for sportsbusinessnews.
com stresses the need
for ‘morals clauses’ in athlete endorsement
contracts. This is perhaps the
best way of managing the way both
the brand and the ambassador will be
represented; it rewards positive reinforcement
and punishes
misrepresentations and any
negative publicity. While morals
clauses have “become
standard in athlete endorsement
contacts since the late
Eighties”, and are what Bloom
describes as “a significant element
of most, if not all, endorsement
agreements” it’s possible
that the level of moral accountability
ought to be far more rigorous.
The athlete may have to
agree to simply not “get into trouble
on a regular basis” in order to
guarantee a basic level of ‘reputational
management’.
In addition, clauses can allow for
sanctions or fines on the part of ath-
What should
Oscar do?
If one speculates given the evidence
so far, it is highly unlikely that Pistorius
will be acquitted, even if his lawyers
prove he acted under the influence of
steroids or other drugs (this defence
has not worked in the past). If he
pleads guilty and makes a deal with
the State he could serve 15 years on
good behaviour, sell the house the cars
and invest his current fortune while
serving his sentence.
He still has youth on his side, but he
might feel tempted to spend a small
fortune on his legal defence. This
appears to be his current strategy
given the legal team and advisers that
are already on the payroll. The former
option means that at least he will have
money when he re-establishes himself
in society, and tries to make a living
once more in circa 2030. ■


Will brands rethink endorsements or brand ambassadors after this? No – we can’t
imagine Nike not being associated with sports stars. They’ll move on to the next hero
with feet of clay. Most of the brands out there are big enough to survive the fallout.
Nike has loads of other stars to endorse it. It’s small brands that become intimately
associated with a celebrity that are most at risk. – Sarah Britten, communications
strategist.
I think that there is going to be far more attention given to this issue. In light of Tiger
Woods, Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius – companies will have to relook their
stance on sponsorship. Interesting is the response rate of sponsors ie with Tiger Woods
– Nike supported him and continued its sponsorship; regarding Lance Armstrong, the
sponsorship was retained through the allegations and then pulled once he confessed;
to doping; regarding Oscar – there was an immediate ‘pulling’ of [some] advertising
etc.
This is a new challenge for companies to deal with, especially as these really “loved”
brands (the nation and the world has adored Oscar and the devastation of finding out
another ‘dark’ side of a brand has huge implications – companies will definitely be
relooking sponsorship of sporting icons – not in terms of not sponsoring them – the
benefits are too huge), but in the context of how they are managed from a risk perspective
to ensure company

What should Oscar do?
If one speculates given the evidence
so far, it is highly unlikely that Pistorius
will be acquitted, even if his lawyers
prove he acted under the influence of
steroids or other drugs (this defence
has not worked in the past). If he
pleads guilty and makes a deal with
the State he could serve 15 years on
good behaviour, sell the house the cars
and invest his current fortune while
serving his sentence.
He still has youth on his side, but he
might feel tempted to spend a small
fortune on his legal defence. This
appears to be his current strategy
given the legal team and advisers that
are already on the payroll. The former
option means that at least he will have
money when he re-establishes himself
in society, and tries to make a living
once more in circa 2030. ■

Blade Runner ‘homicide’:
Breaking news worldwide
■ The Anguish of Oscar – The Times
■ Girls, guns and the dark side of the Blade Runner – Daily Mail
■ 3 shots. Screams. Silence. 3 more shots – The Sun
■ The Dark Side of Oscar Pistorius – The Independent
■ World icon in hell – El Pais (Spanish daily)
■ The bloodied destiny of Oscar Pistorius – Le Soir (Belgian daily)
■ Olympic hero shoots girlfriend dead – Bild (Germany’s biggest selling newspaper)
■ Amputee runner arrested. Gunned-down body found at Mr Pistorius’s home –
Mistook girlfriend as robber? – Asahi (Japan) ■

Thursday, March 13, 2014

#Roux refers Colonel Vermeulen to Cricket bat bashing door - VIDEO RE-ENACTMENT #Oscar Trail

Oscar and Reeva’s tragic fairy-tale – why we care and why it matters that we do

Oscar and Reeva’s tragic fairy-tale  –  why we care and why it matters that we do
As Shakespearean tragedies go there’s no topping Hamlet.  Early on in the first act Hamlet says to Horatio:
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy…

What does it mean?  At first glance, we may not know, or think we don’t.  Our fascination with Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp is the same.  We care, but we don’t know why.  Some people wish not to care, calling it a circus and they tell us they are actively trying to filter out the whole spectacle.  The reasons we care though are quite profound.  For in both Oscar and Reeva there is the mythic journey, the Transcendence of pain and circumstances (which is always heroic) as well as the Transformation, physical and psychological, when the total being emerges as something new, and something better.

In Oscar’s case, his dilemma involved growing up and becoming ‘a real man’, equal to the able-bodied around him.  Without being scornful, one might appreciate this journey as the genuine, heartfelt desire of Pinocchio to be a ‘real boy’, and thus worthy of the love of his ‘father’ and ‘maker’, and thus part of and fully integrated into the wider world of the living.  His Transformation evolved beyond merely becoming an equal who could stand with his peers, but – as we know – an equal of Olympic proportions.  Becoming an icon and even a sex symbol required Transcendence of his inner pain and suffering that is beyond the ken of ordinary mortals.  To remake himself out of the low, clunky functioning that was his lot meant transcending the identity foisted upon him by the world.  Transcending the lottery of what one inherits when one is born, and the world’s limiting and discriminating narrative of one’s formative circumstances isn’t easy. 

Mirror Mirror

Following Reeva’s tragic death, our attentions have been sharply focused on the fall of that hypermasculine, handsome hero.  We may not realise it, but in Reeva we find mirrored precisely the same profound Transformation and Transcendence that we encounter with Oscar.  In fact it may be even more so.  Coming as she did from modest means and simple beginnings, Reeva’s narrative seems to fit comfortably in a rags-to-riches mythos, a sort of modern day Cinderella.  But it is actually a far bigger story than just the cliché of a sweet princess, lost in the woods, doggedly making her way to her prince. 

The key to Reeva lies in that defining moment when she broke her back.  She fell off her horse, and thus incapacitated, lay for weeks on a hospital bed.  Law or Modelling?  She did both, but she committed her vital self to the latter.  Why?  The response to the hospital bed was a profound sense of feeling trapped and disabled.  Not only by her circumstances at the time, but her circumstances as a theme, as a cage trapping a young woman who wanted to emerge, wanted to escape the paralysing anonymity of her life.  This was something that even a successful career in law wouldn’t give her.  She wanted to expand and perpetuate herself, and while Oscar’s road was towards becoming a functional, physical equal with his fellow man, Reeva’s was to transition into another class entirely. On her side was a perpetually sunny personality, a sympathetic soul and an uncommon sincerity.  But the modelling world is another kettle of fish, and will test the mettle of the most resilient Pollyanna.   Ask anyone who has tried, it isn’t easy.  Beyond the sheer drive and discipline involved, the personal costs to the inner self are high.

Beyond Pollyanna

While Reeva’s road may seem psychological, and in many respects it was, just like Oscar she also had to physically transform herself.  Her height, weight and hair all had to be manipulated, dyed, honed and toned.  She had to take full ownership and control over her physical body and beat her body with Olympic discipline into sweaty submission, day in and day out.  These sessions, when hours become days and days become years, and all that blood and sweat has produced few results, the gnawing insecurity can erupt into a tearful sense of it all being for nothing.  An “up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege” as Jerry McGuire once put it.

Over a period of years Reeva carved away at her physicality, moulding and shaping herself into the waif, the goddess.  At the same time, and this aspect is widely under-reported and underestimated, Reeva was slowly, strategically, building up a personal brand.  Charm, a sense of humour and her common touch meant she intuitively had a gift for this. The important psychological breadcrumbs she leaves behind are in the choices she made when it came to boyfriends.  These tell us more about the person underneath that brand. Loving deeply, but not often, as Reeva elevated herself she chose partners who matched her position on her climb up the ladder of success.  With Francois Hougaard and Oscar Pistorius there is an acknowledgement for the first time that her modest circumstances were finally behind her.  Her best friend, Gina Myers, at the beginning of 2013, reinforces this psychology. Myers says the two young women had spoken and agreed not to ‘settle’.  It is a diplomatic way of saying Snow White must harden her heart against the dwarves in order to find her prince and the happiness she deserves.


A final question we should ask is why were both these individuals so incredibly driven?  Why, and what drove them? Was it just big dreams that inspired them, or was it a far greater – and perhaps more desperate – need: to escape.  To trample the worm chewing at who they were from underneath.  Both individuals also seemed to have an overpowering need to prove themselves to disapproving, absent fathers.  This is also where we come eventually to the why.  Shakespeare has Hamlet point out to us just how little even the most educated people can explain.  It may seem strange how little we know about ourselves and this harsh world we live in, but this is because we are so settled on, so addicted to, and so caught up in our own philosophies.  Shakespeare’s message is that there so many things in heaven and earth that we don’t know about.  Most of us lead uninspiring lives based on an amalgam of our own the world’s limiting narratives for ourselves. In Oscar and Reeva we permit ourselves massive Transference.  We are voyeurs in their mythic journey, we participate vicariously in their triumphs, their happiness and their failures, and we can do so from the safety and anonymity of the pavilions.  At the same time, our voyeurism allows us some temporary significance, as we try to elevate ourselves to judges and advocates.  But what our need for Transference really shows with glass-like clarity, is the sharp cut of our own under-achievements. 

In looking at them, we have to acknowledge our own lack of courage, our own sharply fragmented lives and fear of living. And in this we find ourselves caught up in more than just a cautionary fairy tale. It is a moment of awakening for us, a chance to set our own lives right.  Looking outward, we dip our toes into other lives and other possibilities, and consider there may be something beyond our philosophies.  Something important.  To activate ourselves as Oscar and Reeva did means making a dream real at your very core.  It means resurrecting and remembering those dreams that resonate with our inner organism.  The real trick is finding the fortitude to go out there and meet them, come what may.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Oscar Case: Challenging South Africa’s Ever Changing Narrative

Analysis by Nick van der Leek

“Was it a mockery?” This was the response from the prosecution’s star witness, Dr Michelle Burger, to badgering from defense attorney Barry Roux.  Roux was attempting, not for the first time, to get Burger to concede that there was an inconsistency in the idea of a man wanting to kill his girlfriend, but shouting for help at the same time.  Her response that this may have been a ploy by Pistorius to cover his tracks prompted an emotional response from Roux. In fact his response to this was his most impassioned rejoinder thus far in the trial.  But the judge agreed that the defense lawyer had overstepped the mark, and was indeed badgering Burger, telling him, "I really think you have exhausted this.”

Burger, who is Afrikaans, may not have meant “mockery” in the conventional way that it is understood, which is ‘to ridicule’ or ‘show contempt’.  The lecturer at the Department of Construction Economics at Pretoria University, in the nation’s capital, was alluding instead to the possibility of a charade, though other words also come to mind such as ‘pretense’, ‘sham’, ‘farce’ and ‘travesty’, as in ‘a travesty of justice’.  Is that what the world is witnessing in this South African court?  If justice must be done, by all accounts, the trial so far is living up to expectations that justice is also being seen to be done. Is that sufficient?

Voyeurism and Charades

Because this voyeurism isn’t without irony (another word, incidentally that can be associated with ‘mockery’).  In Nel and Roux, two of South Africa’s best legal brains, we also have two Afrikaans white men, pleading their case before a black judge who happens to be a woman.  There have been interpreters on hand, also black, who were not always able to make sense of what witnesses (again white, again Afrikaans), are saying, so much so that witnesses have decided instead to give their testimonies in English (their second language). On DSTV, a pay-television channel dedicated to 24/7 coverage of the trial, many of the experts analysing this case are black editors and journalists, and black legal professionals.  It is unusual but perhaps necessary, this reversal, a crime committed by a white celebrity in a wealthy enclave of Afrikaners, analysed by so many black experts, journalists and commentators. This is a situation where a violent, and some would say heinous crime, has taken place in one of South Africa’s wealthiest neighbourhoods.  In fact, crime statistics from Boschkop Police station in the Pretoria suburb of Lynwood Ridge (which handled the arrest of Oscar Pistorius) show for a fact that the estates under scrutiny are amongst the safest in South Africa.

But Pistorius’ defense insists that he is innocent, and further, that his mistake is innocent.  Specifically his case aims to show a white man killing a white woman was brought about by the imagined threat of a black stranger, as Margie Orford of South Africa’s Daily Maverick online has speculated. Sipho Hlongwane, a South African columnist with Business Day highlighted comments made by Alan Dershowitz, the American criminal lawyer, who told Piers Morgan on CNN recently that the trial was ‘racist’ and the country a ‘failed’ state.  These comments caused an uproar, perhaps rightly so.  But there can be no doubt that South Africa is failing in many critical areas. 

There are hints and signs of this, of course.  Some of these hints are glaring, such as the unqualified, bogus interpreter flanking both the American and South African presidents at Mandela’s memorial service just a few months ago.  If that was not a case of the most brazen, fraudulent pretence the world has ever seen, it is difficult to think of one that could top it. Another is the South African presidents sprawling $20 million mansion, paid for by taxpayers under the pretence (that word again) of ‘security upgrades’. South Africa has seen its last two police commissioners fired, and McBride, an ex-criminal and terrorist, (also a police chief and also fired) recently appointed to the role of chief of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID). So is this trial, even if it is showing justice to be done, not also a pretense for the state trying to show that justice is being done, when in the background, in the corridors and trenches, it obviously is not?  

At the same time the Oscar trial is underway, there has been a case televised of massive police brutality coming from Cape Town.  Where is justice if it is not in the courts, not in police stations, not in cities or the suburbs? Even in the context of this trial, the interpreters have either failed to turn up, or shown themselves to be clumsily unreliable.  While there are a number of issues one could add where South Africa is failing its citizens: crime, poor policing, poor service delivery, roads, transport, water, national electricity, corruption at the highest levels, racism at the lowest, interpretation may be a key area where it is not only South Africa that is failing, but many other civilised countries.

Interpretation is another way of saying, distorting, or explaining one’s version of something. At the end of February South Africa’s president addressed the nation, and called his achievements “a good story”.  Is that his interpretation? Often, we know, our own political leaders play word games with us.  They famously make promises in general terms, using conventional terms that cannot be held against them in a legal setting. But it’s not just politicians who excel at stretching the truth.  Or lawyers, who are famous at bending versions of reality until they resemble outright lies. What about us?  How do the media, big business and the public, for example, participate in the cult of celebrity?  And are we not all culpable to some extent in a collective greed for followers, friends, fortune or renown? 

The Media Monster

When this trial opened, the world watched and was immediately alerted to the dreadful scrutiny of the media and the unwillingness from key witnesses to be subjected to it.  That is what the media can be. It can be monstrous, and terrifying in itself.  In its sheer greed, and reach. The first witnesses have communicated a desire for privacy that questions the appropriateness and sensitivity (and even the lawfulness) of that blinding glare.  Whether performing as a finely-tuned microscope or as a firestorm, the cult (a word which could be expanded to ‘culture’) of the celebrity, should perhaps be revisited.  The one question that appears to be avoided in the pursuit of fame and celebrity is just this: is it authentic?  Is it real?  Surely it is in the media’s ambit to answer, rather than collude, in the answering of this question.

This of course raises another irony. "I listened to a woman die,” Dr Burger testified on the first day of the trial. “I listened to her petrified screams for help, life-threatening, petrifying... Because of the climax of her shouts, I knew something terrible was happening.” Burger, a Real Estate specialist (and only the 4th person in South Africa to be awarded a PhD in this study field) went on to say (through tears) she had suffered mild post traumatic disorder from those screams.  "Every day,” she said, “it comes back to me. Those terrifying calls for help. Those screams, those terrible, terrible screams."

Deconstructing the Masculine Brand
But Pistorius’s defense lawyer dismissed those screams as those of his own client calling for help. “The accused screams like a woman when he is anxious,” Roux insisted. “I put to you that it does. Decibel tests were done.” Of course this was the headline chosen by national newspapers the next day: “Oscar screams like a woman.” The public found this ridiculous, if not downright farcical.  Before the end of the week, the state’s advocate asked an ex-girlfriend of Pistorius, Samantha Taylor if she had heard him shouting. She testified that she had.  “Does he sound like a woman?” Nel asked her at the time. Miss Taylor smiled slightly and replied simply: “That is not true – he sounds like a man.”

The real reason for that slight smile, of course, is that Pistorius’ brand has been built around his masculine good looks, his athleticism, his courage and his determination.  People around the world have been inspired by his fighting spirit, his will to win, his ability to rise above the difficult circumstances surrounding his disability, and the inspiration implicit in turning a negative into a positive.  His brand is the brand of a hero.  Not just a man, but a ‘bladerunner’.  Not just a man but ‘the fastest man with no legs’.  To hear that one’s hero screams like a woman when anxious is contrary to Oscar Pistorius’ brand message.  Just after the death of South Africa’s greatest hero, Mandela, another great hero, loved by the world beyond South Africa’s shores, has fallen.  The nation is mourning, or starting to acknowledge the possibility that South Africa’s second greatest son isn’t who they thought he was.  And his case, it sometimes seems, doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Pack Mentality of the Media
 A cursory remark by Charl Johnson, the state’s third witness, and Burger’s husband, was that after the Valentine’s Day killing, the couple often associated the cries of wild jackals drifting into earshot with those of Reeva Steenkamp. What floats inexorably to the surface of the psyche is a morsel of dialogue from the film, The Silence of the Lambs. Dr.Lecter, a highly educated, vicious psychopathic criminal asks Dr. Starling: You still wake up sometimes, don't you? You wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs.
Clarice Starling: Yes.
Hannibal Lecter: And you think if you save poor Catherine, you could make them stop, don't you? You think if Catherine lives, you won't wake up in the dark ever again to that awful screaming of the lambs.
Clarice Starling: I don't know.

Of course, while the trial has been celebrated as an opportunity for South Africans to examine (possibly to fix, possibly to assess, possibly to praise) our justice system, no one really knows what good will come out this trial, particularly the media’s hungry participation in it.  Wits University’s Professor Anton Harber, director of Journalism and Media Studies, has astutely observed, “When we [the media] are at our worst is when we operate as a pack.” And the Oscar Pistorius trial has brought out this pack mentality, of editors and journalists trying to outscoop each other.  To what end?  Margie Orford’s allusion to the “paranoid imagining of suburban South Africa...[lurking] like a bogeyman...threatening, nameless and faceless...[the] dangerous black intruder” may have some foundation in reality.  But the media have a real role to play in shining a light that can dissipate the ghosts haunting our neighbourhoods.  Beyond selling stories, beyond that almost political cliché of telling a public what they want to hear, the media can do what they once did.  Instead of a preoccupation with profit, the South African media has an opportunity in this instance to perform a valuable public service.  There is always the opportunity for the media to shape culture, and create a new narrative.  South Africa’s media and advertising industry have succeeded to some extent in building an image of a ‘rainbow nation’, of a diverse crowd of ethnicities drinking beer together whilst watching rugby.  While the Oscar Trial unfolds, it is the responsibility of the media to deal with those ‘awful screams’ of the jackals.  But can they?  And if so, how?  What narrative is it that South Africans need to hear right now?

What happened to discernment?

First of all, we have to learn discernment.  To separate fiction from reality, race issues from class issues and celebrity from heroism.  June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother, had a simple message to the media.  She had come to the trial she said, because “I want to look into Oscar’s eyes.”  This is something we all need to do.  We have seen the common man become a Mandela, and we have seen the common man idolise him. We have seen a lot of counterfeiting of our heroes lately, haven’t we: Armstrong, Tiger Woods, presidents the world over, the pope, and now this.  Can we still recognise heroes when we see them?  Or are we complicit – the media and us – in building them up, making them into brands but based on little more than flash and the fickle fiat currency that is popularity. Should Pistorius ever have been allowed to compete as an equal, with able bodied athletes at the level of the Olympics?  Are our standards in terms of doping in professional cycling not equally applicable here?

The precursor to Pistorius shooting his girlfriend in 2013 were the Oscars, the 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood.  Pistorius, ironically (again) was to be the face of that campaign in South Africa (ironically organised by the same channel that has devoted around-the-clock coverage of the trial). A year later, the Oscar’s were once again a precursor to the trial.  The Oscar for best actor went to Matthew McConaughey this year, for his role in the Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey gave an eclectic speech, the longest and some would say best of the evening.  He finished saying, “[My] hero. That's who I chase. ...when I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say 'who's your hero?' And I said, 'I don't know, I gotta think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.' I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says 'who's your hero?' I said, 'I thought about it. You know who it is? It's me in 10 years.'

That is the narrative South Africans, and everyone else following the cult of celebrity, need to learn. By being our own heroes we can’t participate in the cult of the celebrity.  By being our own heroes we can’t be our own worst enemies.  In this case, there was no intruder. The enemy lived in that house. The enemy was us. This was the last thought that occurred to all who heard those terrible screams. Facebook and twitter may enable these cults, but they also enable ordinary individuals to establish their own identities publicly.  The question is, are they real?  Is who we portray ourselves, authentic? Do we cry wolf behind our social media masks? Are we credible people, can we believe our neighbours and our countrymen and can they believe us?

For that to happen, more than being our own heroes, we have to be our own saviours.  To stop listening to the screams of the jackals in the dark, we have to turn instead towards each other.  For the light of our hearts is what illuminates the road to greatness, and this applies equally to people as it does to nations. But greatness only really happens if our dreams are not only dreams for ourselves, but dreams that includes our fellow man. Only you and I can walk it, but it is how we walk it together that makes all the difference, and decides that fateful question: where will this road take us to in the end?  The narrative that needs to emerge out of this trial is really Reeva Steenkamp’s narrative. A law graduate, a paralegal, Steenkamp was acutely aware of violence against women.  This is a moment for South Africans and the world to see how the law works. To learn the law, to live lawfully even when no one is watching, and to walk the road with class and with integrity. That’s the real lesson, and one Miss Steenkamp would have liked.