Oscar Pistorius, the once celebrated Olympian known as the "Blade Runner" for his carbon fiber prosthetics, is now a free man. Eleven years after the fatal shooting of his girlfriend Reeve Steenkamp, he has been released on parole from a South African prison.
The event is reigniting heated debates surrounding the tragedy, the legal process, and lingering questions of justice and healing. This news is the top news these days in South Africa, where the residents of that country do not support the release of this once successful athlete.
In 2013, Pistorius' world was shattered when he fired four bullets through the bathroom door, ending Steenkamp's life. His claim that he mistook her for a burglar initially drew suspicion, but legal consequences eventually followed.
After several appeals and overturned convictions, he was finally sentenced to 13 years and five months in 2017 for murder. A lot of public pressure on the judicial system eventually led to this long sentence, and the court could not resist public criticism.
No prison can replace life
Today's release comes as no surprise in South Africa, where all offenders are eligible for parole after serving half of their sentences. Still, it stirs up a cocktail of emotions, especially for Steenkamp's family.
While acknowledging the legal system's course, her mother, June, pointedly notes that no amount of time served can replace the irreplaceable, emphasizing the lasting pain of loss. "We have always known that parole is part of the South African legal system and we have always said that the law must take its course.
The conditions imposed by the parole board, which include anger management courses and programs on gender-based violence, send a clear message that takes gender-based violence seriously." said the mother of the murdered girl.
Pistorius' freedom, however, is not absolute. He will face strict conditions until his sentence expires in 2029, including anger management and gender-based violence programs. "Was there justice for Riva? Did Oscar serve enough time? There can never be justice if your loved one never comes back, and no amount of time served will bring Riva back.
We who remain are serving a life sentence." said the visibly upset mother. Regardless of individual opinions, this event brings to the fore a crucial conversation about rehabilitation and overcoming the consequences of tragedy, although it will not ease the wounds of grieving families.