Oscar Pistorius has already been sentenced to life in his own personal prison. However, it is only a matter of time before Judge Thokozile Masipa decides if that prison will involve actual bars. Pistorius is facing a life sentence for the 2013 death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. In South Africa a life sentence is 25 years straight time. Judge Masipa is well-known for handing down the toughest, strongest sentences in the criminal courts of South Africa and there is little indication of what side she is leaning in the case of Pistorius.
It is clear that Oscar Pistorius has long-lived a life in his own personal prison for years. Living a life of fear, fear of crime, fear of violence, and fears of his loved ones being victims has long led how he’s lived. South Africa has the highest violent crime rate in the world. Pistorius lives in a high-security gated community flanked by armed guards, brick walls with razor-sharp wire, and a hundred homes armed with state of the art security systems. With all this protection one would consider themselves safe in their own homes, but not Pistorius and for good reason. His neighborhood has faced several armed break-ins, with at least one burglary at Pistorius’ own home. In South Africa citizens are in broad daylight, held at knife-point walking from a grocery store to the car, and beaten in the streets. Crime is a matter of life in South Africa. Pistorius has received his fair share of death threats as many celebrities often do. Yet those new fears only compounded what was in stone for over a decade.
The outward signs of fear in Pistorius has been well-known in the South African community. From his earliest childhood Pistorius’ mother, Sheila, lived in her own fear and kept guns in her home, including one under her pillow as she slept at night. Oscar grew up in that uncertainty and sometimes would be found hiding in cupboards if he was alone and scared. His fears, long ingrained in his life, have only grown as his popularity rose. Oscar never went anywhere without a weapon, and found himself in several public incidents where his firearm was mistakenly discharged. Oscar spent much of his free time at shooting ranges perfecting his target skills. However, Oscar never really felt safe, which is indicative as to what happened that fateful night. He suffered a vulnerability that many cannot comprehend. On his prosthetic legs he is six feet tall, however with his prosthetics removed he stands a mere five feet tall. This lends to a whole new fear that he faced on a daily basis. For the typical citizen who has never understood living a life of such vulnerabilities, what happened Valentine’s night 2012 is hard to comprehend. Yet if one has ever felt such depths of despair, the actions Oscar Pistorius took that night makes a lot more sense. Weapons give people a false sense of security, however the false sense of security he held in his hand that night has taken away the last hope he had of peace. Already sentencing Oscar Pistorius to a life of prison in his own permanent despair.
The prison of fear Oscar has lived in for decades has now completely enveloped him in torment he will never escape. Even if a miracle allows him to keep his freedom he will never escape the pain his fears have manifested. Oscar no longer sleeps at night and hides in his home. He secluded himself from the outside world. He has pulled away from family and any friends he has left. His inward fears have manifested into outward signs that he will never be the same. Pistorius now fears himself and what he is capable of doing, capable of taking a life. The argument in court is that he took a life out of anger, but the truth is he took a life out of an uncontrolled internal fear that a gun just can not fix. There will never be a day that he steps out of bed and doesn’t think of Reeva. There will never be a day that he doesn’t look in the mirror and see someone who took a life. And there may never be a day when Oscar Pistorius’ life sentence will ever free him from his own prison.
Opinion by Kimberly Beller