Oscar Pistorius in the dock on Tuesday as his sentencing for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp continues at the high court in Pretoria. Picture: Kim Ludbrook
Oscar Pistorius in the dock on Tuesday as his sentencing for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp continues at the high court in Pretoria. Picture: Kim Ludbrook

#OscarPistorius actually quite violent - jail official

By Shain Germaner Time of article published Jun 14, 2016

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Pretoria - A health manager at Oscar Pistorius's prison has described his poor behaviour, tantrums and an incident where his family seemingly smuggled medication into the prison.

Pistorius was convicted of murder in December last year after the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned his culpable homicide conviction for shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp by firing four bullets through a closed bathroom door at the athlete's Pretoria East home.

This week, the State and defence will argue in aggravation and mitigation for Judge Thokozile Masipa to determine the athlete's possible sentence.

After emotional testimony from Steenkamp's father Barry, the second witness called by the State was Charlotte Mashabane, a Correctional Services official.

Mashabane is an assistant health manager at Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre hospital section where Pistorius was held during his incarceration after his initial culpable homicide conviction.

Mashabane said she is responsible for doing rounds at the hospital section, going patient to patient and checking their condition.

At the time of Pistorius's incarceration, Mashabane said only two patients were in the section.

She told the court that on the morning of 1 March 2015 during the rounds, Pistorius was uncharacteristically angry.

After trying to rouse him from bed, he began shouting at her, saying she was disturbing him. She tried to explain that she had to check on him. “No, get out, get out!” he told her.

Another incident happened on a Saturday, she was told Pistorius wanted to see her.

Previously, he had requested a supplement and pneumatic device, and the section doctor and Mashabane had told him they were unfamiliar with what he had requested. She researched the device and filed a memo to have it approved.

The morning of the incident, when he entered Mashabane's office, he asked for feedback. She said the procedure to have the device approved could not be completed in two days. He then banged on the table with his notebook, saying the medical team was “useless”.

Pistorius later requested he be seen by his own private doctor, and she explained to the athlete he needed to complete forms to allow such an application.

Three days later, he brought the forms back.

Mashabane went to visit the doctor, who was stationed at Steve Biko Hospital.

State prosecutor Gerrie Nel interrupted Mashabane, telling the court that the doctor was actually Pistorius's recently graduated cousin.

Mashabane told the court that the application was approved, and Pistorius's cousin was able to see him.

The health manager explained that medication prescribed by a private doctor would have to be approved by a Correctional Services doctor.

She moved on to another incident.

On 2 February 2015, Pistorius's family came through to the prison to bring medication for the athlete. She said that the medication was smuggled to Pistorius without prior permission from the prison administration. The officer who dropped off the medicine claimed the family had arranged with a prison nurse to have it dropped off.

When she explained to Pistorius the medicine was not properly arranged and that the athlete knew the proper procedure, he threw a tantrum.

He claimed the medication the prison had given him was not working, but when he returned it, it was unopened. Confusing for Mashabane was that the medication smuggled in was the same type.

She also explained that Pistorius should not have had the large number of anti-depressants found in his cell on another occasion, as they were dispensed daily.

Mashabane then told the court that she had requested not to have to interact with Pistorius to avoid any further tantrums.

Nel brought up evidence from earlier in proceedings about Pistorius claiming he had been assaulted in prison, but Mashabane said this could not have happened without anyone knowing. She said that he did once have a bruised eye, but that he had told her this was from an accident in the gym.

Mashabane also clarified that an incident where an inmate committed suicide at the prison happened in another section, and it would have been impossible for Pistorius to have seen his body, as he had claimed.

In cross-examination, defence advocate Barry Roux asked when Mashabane had stopped seeing Pistorius. She said it was only in March 2015, six months into Pistorius's stay, that she withdrew.

It was under cross-examination, that Mashabane revealed when Pistorius tried to return his medication that the athlete had thrown it onto the table in anger. But Roux said that the manager had failed to mention this in her evidence in chief.

“Why do I get the feeling you want to say something negative about him because the two of you are not compatible in personality?” asked Roux.

Mashabane denied this.

Regarding the incident of the approval for his pneumatic device, she reiterated Pistorius's anger and that as a professional she could not have reacted in fear.

Roux gave Pistorius's version, that he needed medication, Voltaren, for a swollen hand and Mashabane had denied him this. But the health manager said she did not remember such an injury.

Roux said according to the complaints register from the prison, Pistorius had requested a meeting to complain about his medical treatment.

“He believed his hand was fractured, he asked to go for an X-ray, you refused?” Roux asked. Mashabane denied this as well.

“What is it you're coming to tell us? Is he a violent person?” asked Roux. “He's not violent...” she said, before Roux interrupted her.

But upon further questioning, she said she felt threatened by the athlete during his tantrums.

“He's actually quite violent,” she said.

Mashabane confirmed upon questioning she was aware that Pistorius was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when he made the outbursts. 

Roux argued that the medication Pistorius seemed to have been hoarding in his cell could have been the pills he was given at the prison, but just did not take. But Mashobane said this was unlikely. 

Pistorius had also told his lawyer that he had definitely seen the body of the suicidal prisoner, but Mashabane said there was no way the athlete would ever have seen it, and only possibly have heard about the incident from other inmates.

The case continues on Wednesday, when the state will present a "very emotional (final) witness," according to Gerrie Nel.

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