On Friday, November 24th, Oscar Pistorius, the South African Paralympic star, was granted parole, marking the end of a decade-long saga that began with the tragic killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius, known globally as the “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fiber prosthetic legs, will be released from prison on January 5th, 2024, as confirmed by the Department of Correctional Services.
Pistorius, who turned 37 this week, was initially jailed in 2014 for culpable homicide by a high court. However, the Supreme Court of Appeal later found him guilty of murder after an appeal by prosecutors, leading to a more severe sentence. His total sentence was extended to 13 years and five months in 2017, with the Supreme Court describing the initial six-year jail term as “shockingly lenient.”
The case of Pistorius has been one of the most high-profile and controversial in recent South African history. On Valentine’s Day in 2013, he shot and killed Steenkamp, firing four shots through the bathroom door of his Pretoria villa. Pistorius pleaded not guilty, claiming he mistook Steenkamp for a burglar. This defense was met with skepticism, particularly from Steenkamp’s mother, June, who has consistently maintained that Pistorius knowingly killed her daughter.
June Steenkamp, in a statement to the parole board, expressed her doubts about Pistorius’ rehabilitation, stating that true remorse requires engaging honestly with the full truth of his crime. She said, “My dear child screamed for her life loud enough for the neighbors to hear her. I do not know what gave rise to his choice to shoot through a closed door four times at somebody with hollow-point ammunition when I believe he knew it was Reeva.”
She added that she forgave Pistorius long ago, as holding onto anger would not have allowed her to survive. Despite her reservations, she did not oppose the parole hearing.
Pistorius’ journey from a celebrated Paralympic champion and role model for disabled athletes to a convicted killer has been a dramatic fall from grace. His case has sparked widespread debate and interest, both in South Africa and internationally, about issues of domestic violence, gun control, and the criminal justice system.
As part of his parole conditions, Pistorius will be required to attend therapy for anger issues and “gender-based violence issues” and perform community service. His father, Henke, has spoken about his son’s transformation in prison, describing him as a spiritual leader who has worked to rehabilitate himself.