And the Oscar goes to…gross ineptitude

24 February 2013

Last week saw South Africa, and various parts of the world, wallowing in the schadenfreude surrounding the case of Oscar Pistorius.  National productivity must have taken a dip, with the only growth area being a temporary surge in Twitter followings.

South Africa is a country with very real and substantial problems – splashed across news dailies here and abroad.  Many of these problems are the result of ineptitude, the latter being generally defined as unskillfulness resulting from a lack of training or experience – across a range of levels from moral to procedural.  The Oscar Pistorius bail hearing highlighted, in my opinion, quite a few unfortunate problem areas.

The pre-trial incarceration process was inept in that it appeared to favour a celebrity (police cells vs prison), treatment not afforded to the common citizen.  Crime in South Africa is at a level where it cannot be allowed to deteriorate further by abuse of process;  the Investigating Officer demonstrated ineptitude on a level that is very difficult to associate with someone who has a quarter of a century of experience of investigative policing; the State Prosecutor was equally inept for allowing the aforementioned investigating officer to get anywhere near the witness stand, given his apparently abysmal grasp of the case history or the crime scene.

The magistrate, despite his obvious attempts to ensure balance and not approach issues of guilt or innocence, slipped up when he suggested that the police should ensure that high profile cases receive the attention of their most experienced officers.  Given the nature of this case, this is a gross slap in the face to female victims of crime who have no celebrity status.  Again, justice must be seen to be fair and not show favour.  Every South African has a constitutional right to the best policing possible – but of course our police service is overseen by its third political appointee who is not a career policeman or policewoman.

Following the case on Twitter seems to have been difficult, given the often conflicting one-liner reports from media representatives (whatever happened to the specialized profession of court reporting?).  Twitterers should be more concerned about accuracy than their number of “followers”.  Lastly, while the courtroom drama seems to have devolved into something akin to reality TV, the shout of exultation from, presumably, a member of the accused’s family when bail was approved, was grossly disrespectful of the feelings of the victim’s family, the victim having been almost completely ignored throughout this saga.  Other comments about how the accused may emerge from this do not deserve attention.

Perhaps a country like ours, which is facing so many seemingly insurmountable challenges, needs periods of diversion?  While this may be so, tragedies such as the death of yet another South African woman, should not be devalued by improper attention to detail and procedure.




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