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Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

A few thoughts on the Oscar Pistorius trial

In behavior, Crime, journalism, news, urban life, world on April 12, 2014 at 12:44 pm

By Caitlin Kelly

Have you been following this story?

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My Twitter feed includes the BBC reporter sitting in the courtroom, so I’ve read a lot of detail, some of it horrific, and reading about it in The New York Times.

The South African runner Oscar Pistorius stands accused of murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, shooting her through his bathroom door when he mistook her for an intruder.

As someone who spent only one day — an unforgettably frightening one — covering two criminal trials in an Ontario courtroom decades ago, the coverage is making me crazy, because:

We don’t know if he is guilty. Endless speculation by journalists, almost all of which assumes Pistorius is guilty, appalls me.

The prosecutor, and Pistorius’ defense attorney, are not there to offer the truth. Their job is to present the most polished and impregnable version of whatever facts they have been able to assemble.

Mocking a defendant is cheap and nasty. Even the judge — as there is no jury system in South Africa — felt compelled to point this out to “Pit Bull” state prosecutor Gerrie Nel:

At one point during his testimony, Mr. Nel snickered. That prompted a rare interjection from Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa, who seemed to be addressing the prosecutor and the gallery but whose comments could be heard far and wide, as the trial has become a global spectacle.

“You possibly think this is entertainment,” the judge said. “It is not.”

The trial is grisly and terrifying in its detail. I feel for the reporters who must listen to it and look at photos.

Why is it so impossible to imagine Pistorius’ very real terror if he thought an intruder had entered his home?

How would any of us feel or react if we awakened fearing an intruder — and we did not have quick, easy movement without prosthetics?

People who have never fired a handgun (as I have), have no idea — none — what that feels, smells and sounds like. To do so, as he did, half-asleep, in a small and enclosed space, would have been extremely loud and disorienting.

There is tremendous dislike and contempt for gun-owners by those who do not own a firearm — which includes most mainstream journalists covering this story. I know this, having spent two years researching gun use in the United States, interviewing 104 men, women and teens for my first book, “Blown Away: American Women and Guns.”

Like this New Yorker story.

I don’t own a gun but I get why some people make that choice. No matter how repugnant to others, their firearms are as normal and unremarkable a part of their life as a frying pan or car.

Prosecutor Nel demanded to know why Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp had never emailed or texted the words “I love you” to one another. Really? Relevance? Not everyone is verbally effusive with their affection.

One piece that does confuse me — why Steenkamp would have locked the bathroom door in her lover’s home.

Have you also followed this trial?

What do you think of it all?

Do you live in, or know what life is like in, South Africa? I’d love to hear from you especially.

South Africa's Abused Children — And The Woman Photographer Who Tells Their Stories

In Crime, photography, world on March 11, 2010 at 7:56 am

Herself a victim of sexual abuse, Mariella Furrer bears witness to the emotional and physical pain of these young children.

From The New York Times‘ terrific photo blog, Lens:

For more than seven years, Ms. Furrer has been involved with a project so draining that she has had to seek medical help. Photographing young victims of sexual abuse in South Africa would be difficult for anyone, but Ms. Furrer, 41, is herself a victim of sexual abuse.

“There’s just no way that you can do a project like this and not be deeply, deeply affected on every level,” she said. “Emotionally, spiritually, physically.”

As part of her project, which will be published as a book this fall, Ms. Furrer has spent much of her time observing interviews conducted by the South African police with children who reported abuse. She often posed a few questions of her own, sitting on the floor so children didn’t feel threatened or obliged to speak. If they cried, she held their hands.

DESCRIPTIONMariella Furrer A young boy cries at his classmate’s memorial service.

An estimated 50 child rapes are reported daily in South Africa, Ms. Furrer said, but children’s rights advocates activists believe the actual rate could be much higher. On an average day, she said, two to eight children visit a local police station to report abuse.

Having finished gathering material for her book, Ms. Furrer is developing a global fundraising campaign and a Web site to raise awareness of child sexual abuse. She also continues to document some of the children she has come across in South Africa.

I began my journalism career as a photographer, and still shoot for work and for pleasure; my partner is a photo editor and photographer and our home is filled with images, his, mine and some iconic ones by his former friends and colleagues, like Bernie Boston’s young man placing a flower into the barrel of a rifle or George Thames’ well-known image of President Kennedy standing in front of the Oval Office windows.

We love and value great visual journalism — as powerful, often much more —  as written.

Two Great Library Stories — Yay Bibliophiles!

In culture, History, Media, world on December 1, 2009 at 11:56 am

Timbuktu’s crumbling manuscripts, validating the notion that Africa had fantastic intellectual resources many centuries before being colonized by Europe,  are getting a new lease on life, reports the BBC:

Across Timbuktu, in cupboards, rusting chests, private collections and libraries, tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of manuscripts bear witness to this legendary city’s remarkable intellectual history, and by extension, to Africa’s much overlooked pre-colonial heritage.

“This is the proof,” said Mr Boularaf.

“Africa was not wild before the white man came. In fact, if you will excuse the expression, it was the colonising that was wild.”

Ahmed Saloum Boularaf

Ahmed Saloum Boularaf has been caring for documents for years

But this unique literary evidence is under threat, as time, the elements, and a simple lack of resources take their toll in northern Mali.

“We are losing manuscripts every day. We lack the financial means to catalogue and protect them,” said Mr Boularaf, who recently rescued his collection from the rubble of a mud building next door that collapsed after a rainstorm.

Now a giant, new, state of the art library has landed – rather like a spaceship – in the dilapidated centre of Timbuktu, offering the best hope of preserving and analysing the town’s literary treasures.

After several years of building and delays, the doors are finally about to open at the Ahmed Baba Institute’s new home – a 200 million rand (£16,428,265) project paid for by the South African government.

“It’s a dream come true,” said South African curator Alexio Motsi, exploring the underground, climate-controlled storage rooms that will soon house some 30,000 manuscripts.

And, in Westbury-sub-Mendip, in Somerset, England, a new library — probably the world’s smallest — has opened in a re-purposed red telephone booth. It was bought for one pound and now has four shelves and a red plastic crate with kids’ books in it.

Take one, leave one: no cards, no teeny tiny librarian. No fines!

Bird Beats Broadband and South Africa's A-Twitter

In business, culture, Technology, world on September 13, 2009 at 9:40 pm
Rock Dove

Image via Wikipedia

Messages were once carried by pigeon — and a test in South Africa pitting a pigeon named Winston against a local broadband provider found the bird was faster.

A Durban IT company this week, fed up with glacial speeds of data transmission, pitted an 11-month-old bird armed with a 4GB memory stick against the ADSL service from the country’s biggest web firm, Telkom.

Winston the pigeon took two hours to carry the data 60 miles – in the same time the ADSL had sent 4% of the data.

Telkom said it was not responsible for the firm’s slow internet speeds. South Africa is hoping the installation of fiber optic networks on the continent will soon speed things up a little.

The bird was said to be “over the moon” at his feat.

Rape in South Africa, Where Little Girls and Lesbians Are Targets of Choice

In politics, women on July 28, 2009 at 6:19 am
CIA map of South Africa

Image via Wikipedia

Today, BBC World News, a radio show I listen to every morning for an hour, will focus again on this horrifying issue, one the BBC has been following for years. In 2002, they posted the news that one in four South African girls under the age of 16 had been raped. Now, a survey of 1,730 men conducted by the Medical Research Council there finds that 25 percent of men say they’ve raped, and half of them have done it more than once.

In addition to child and adult rape, consider the phenomenon of “corrective rape” — the idea being that a brutal sexual attack by a man, or several will “cure” lesbians of their preference for women. Eudy Simelone, one of the nation’s star athletes, a lesbian, was raped and stabbed 25 times for the crime of being gay.

I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know her name or much about her story. Imagine the international outrage and horror if we heard of the raping and stabbing of openly lesbian athletes like  tennis legends Billie Jean King, Aurelie Mauresmo or Martina Navratilova, Canadian hockey player Nancy Drolet, German cyclist Judith Arndt, American mountain biker Missy Giove or Carol Blazejowski, a former basketball star now the general manager of the New Jersey Liberty of the WNBA.

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