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The Pistorius case casts a lurid light on a corrupt and crimeridden South Africa

The background to the Pistorius case is concerning, but it is no surprise: in South Africa only one in 50 hijackings lead to a conviction and most murders go unsolved


The trial of Oscar Pistorius is extraordinary in itself; there is something very dark at the heart of this case. But it is also extraordinary for what it is revealing, in unintended ways, about the heart of South Africa today.
On Wednesday, it was announced that the detective who was supposed to be leading the inquiry is to appear in court in May for attempted murder. It is alleged that two years ago, Detective Hilton Botha, while drunk, fired from a


police vehicle at a minibus taxi full of black passengers. T his kind of thing was a popular recreation for drunk, white policemen during the apartheid years. The case against Detective Botha was dropped, but has now been reopened, presumably because of the potential PR disaster. Botha also suggested that a row between Pistorius and his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was overheard by witnesses. After questioning, he agreed that one of them was half a kilometre from Pistorius’s house. Botha has also admitted to not wearing protective clothing when entering the crime scene, and he announced, without forensic evidence, that Pistorius had testosterone in his house. It seems the drugs in question may have been harmless herbal remedies. None of this comes as a surprise. T he police in South Africa are notoriously incompetent, corrupt and poorly trained. Many of them barely speak English, and to watch an officer filling in a crime sheet, as I did recently, is to understand the notion of eternity. Only one in 50 hijackings lead to a conviction. Most murders go unsolved and the crimes and misdemeanours of the ANC upper echelons are ignored unless the press becomes involved. There has been appalling corruption at the very highest: Jackie Selebi, the chief of police, was in cahoots with a gangster. Before his appointment, he had been head of the ANC Youth League. For years, he was protected by senior

a breakdown of civil society and its institutions. he was released a year later on medical grounds: no comrade in the struggle must linger in jail. Or perhaps it just indicates a profound ignorance of the notion of the rule of law. T he characteristics of a failed state are a complete lack of revenue collection. there are very few people who believe any longer in the prospect of a decent and fair society under the ANC. It was reported that two representatives of the ANC Women’s League attended day one of the Pistorius trial. perhaps a reasonable education for all was never possible. even derisory. irresistibly suggesting road kill. had the fervent support of Julius Malema. Francis Fukuyama suggested that the biggest danger for South Africa would be white flight. One of them. the danger is that the ANC might turn racist and accuse white people of non-cooperation and exploitation. delivered her verdict. a lack of protection for citizens. In the meantime. He is the proud owner – it is reported – of five BMWs allegedly paid for by cronies for whom it is said he secured government contracts. If it is seriously challenged in an election by a coalition of opposition. a man who appears to be in the process of reinventing himself as a Zulu chief. Nadine Gordimer. T he fact that the Cape is the only province it does not rule is difficult for the ANC to accept: there is still a pervasive sense that. the ANC leadership stopped the gravy train only long enough to jump aboard. Zuma has spent a vast amount of money fortifying and rebuilding his ancestral home. if not always fearless. rampant corruption and an inability to pay international debts. it is one of the greatest disillusionments of the new South Africa that the ANC should routinely use the terrible apartheid years to justify or explain every breach of . both of capital and of educated people. He has 21 children to house. Stompie Moeketsi. In the countryside. to ignore the constitution when it suits its purposes. But there are alarming signs of decay. to control every quango.figures in the Mbeki government. As Desmond Tutu put it. a failing shared with President Jacob Zuma. The whole notion of a rainbow nation now seems hollow. they sat on the bench next to the Pistorius family. predictably. it has the divine right to run everything. Despite everything. In South Africa. to share out all the well-paid jobs. long-time ANC groupie. born in South Africa and ever hopeful. Financed by the state and supplemented by loans from questionable businessmen. none of the MPs is responsible to anyone except the leadership. Some years ago. peopled by “cadres” and “comrades”. For me. Some serious commentators are talking of a failed state. The truth is the ANC under Jacob Zuma is in tatters. T his speaks eloquently of the ANC’s view of itself as more important than the law or the legal process. not far from his mansions. It is happening. now expelled from the ANC. Perhaps our expectations of the Mandela era were naive. The education system is failing – although it is significantly better in the Western Cape than in other provinces. But even this freedom is under threat from new legislation. T he most notorious member of the Women’s League was Winnie Mandela. live some of the poorest of the rural poor. who in 1989 escaped jail with the help of friends in high places for involvement in the kidnap of a 14-year-old boy. and to use the organs of state for personal advantage. It is one of the redeeming features of South Africa that the press is free. South Africa is a long way from failure on these criteria. appoint every judge. told me recently just how disillusioned she is. She said that Pistorius should be crushed by the “iron fist” of justice. T he Zimbabwean model. it’s not a political party. Because of the list form of proportional representation. complete with a leopardskin cloak that includes the flattened head of the leopard. once head of the ANC Youth League. the gap between the rich and the poor grows and crime is widespread. which would follow. but a movement. What has happened in South Africa over the past 20 years is a tragedy. because of its role in the nearly mythical “struggle”. although he was finally convicted in 2011 after sustained pressure from newspapers. But these failings are made far worse by the government of Jacob Zuma. Perhaps the legacy of apartheid was underestimated. perhaps the idea of a non-racial and fair society was not a real prospect. Sally Nkosi Peterson.

I love being in South Africa: it’s never dull. As it happens. So back to the trial of Pistorius. Justin Cartwright is the author of 18 works of fiction and non-fiction . every incompetence and every snout in the trough.the law. with all its bizarre revelations.