Now Oscar’s just somebody that we used to know

17 Feb



I found myself crying about Reeva Steenkamp this morning. It happened when I saw a picture of her cat. “Reeva had a cat,” I thought, “She had something in common with me. And now she’s dead.”

It is none of my business to know what Reeva’s cat looks like. It is none of my business to know that her close friends called her “Alfi.” It is none of my business to know that she loved horses and was excited about Valentine’s Day.

Yet I know. We all know.

Bizarrely, Reeva’s death feels like the death of someone every South African knew and adored. Perhaps because we all felt like we knew her murderer, we had to get to know her, too.

(In case someone reading this has not seen, well, any newspaper in the world this week: Reeva Steenkamp was found dead in her boyfriend’s home on Valentine’s Day. She was shot 4 times. Her boyfriend happened to be South Africa’s golden boy – the internationally renowned athlete, Oscar Pistorius. Pistorius was the world’s first disabled runner to compete in both the Paralympics and Olympics last year. He was widely regarded as an inspiration and hero – after having his lower legs amputated as an infant, he overcame tremendous odds to become the world famous “Blade Runner”. The State is charging him with premeditated murder under schedule 6 of the Criminal Procedures Act. Crimes like this usually carry a life sentence, and it will be difficult even for bail to be granted as Pistorius awaits trial. Reeva was only 29.)

We all knew Oscar. Or at least, we thought we did. He was, I think it’s safe to say, a national hero. The boy who overcame so much, and whose handsome face has been everywhere since the Olympics. We felt like we knew him because we saw him every day. Perfect, inspirational Oscar smiling at us from another billboard. Playful Oscar jokingly advertising “Oscar month” in the run-up to the Academy Awards. Oscar and his little sister on the cover of Sarie. Oscar on the cover of GQ. It goes on and on.

The Oscar we used to know

The Oscar we used to know

The Oscar we knew is no murderer – it simply could not be.

When the news of Reeva’s death broke, I doubt that single South African did not believe that the story was a tragic accident. That she sneaked in to surprise him for Valentine’s Day, and was mistaken for an intruder before being killed. It’s plausible here – many of us sleep with firearms next to our beds because the possibility of violent criminals entering the home is very real. Without exception, I think we felt sorry for him.

Sadly, the developing story makes fools of us all. The Oscar we all thought we knew and were so very proud of is being exposed – bit by bit – as an egotistic narcissist with a history of aggression. The Oscar we all thought we knew now seems like an illusion. A personality created in order to cash in on athletic fame.

Oscar leaving the court. Bail proceedings have been postponed to Tuesday.

Oscar leaving the court. Bail proceedings have been postponed to Tuesday.

Sure – the papers are trying to fuel the controversy. This story has gripped the nation to a point of obsession, and that sells even better than sex. Be that as it may, I don’t get the sense that the media is grasping at straws to make Oscar look like the bad guy. On the contrary – the media started out on his side. It was practically assumed that he was without blame. Shamefully, we felt that he was even more of a victim than Reeva was. As one observer on Twitter noted – we were more concerned for poor Oscar and his career than we were about Reeva’s death and family.

By now, you all know the details that have emerged. All seem to point to cold blooded murder. Seems we didn’t know Oscar at all.


Reeva was never that well known. Now she’ll never have the chance.

Distastefully, the producers of a silly “treasure seeking” reality show she was part of has decided to air the drivel “especially for us to get to know the real Reeva”. That we’ll learn much watching her do obstacle courses and drink Tropica is doubtful.

All we really have are the memories of her friends and family, and the words and photographs of Reeva herself.

Today, the Sunday Times dedicated half a page to Reeva’s last Instagram pictures:

Reeva and Oscar on the beach. Reeva posing playfully in an animal suit. Reeva blowing out a birthday candle.

Reeva’s sleeping cat.


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