Cape Town - Oscar Pistorius has applied to be released temporarily from his Pretoria prison next week to attend his grandfather’s memorial service, leading to questions about preferential treatment for the former athlete.
This follows confirmation three weeks ago by a family member that Pistorius was struggling with the news that his 101-year-old grandfather Hendrik Pistorius had died from ill health in the early hours of October 19.
Pistorius’s attendance was confirmed by a family member who supplied the venue and the date on condition that it be kept private.
However, asked for confirmation, Department of Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said: “An application has been made by an inmate but not yet considered by the head of centre.
“He has to consider a number of factors before an inmate is temporarily placed out of a correctional facility as that carries risks.”
However, another source close to Pistorius, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said he would be attending the memorial service at an exclusive Pretoria venue.
Pistorius is serving a 13-year sentence at Atteridgeville Correctional Centre for the 2013 murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
He turns 32 on November 22 and is likely to become eligible for parole around 2023.
Amid accusations that the release indicates preferential treatment of Pistorius, Nxumalo said: “In Correctional Services, all inmates are the same and must be treated equally.
“Inmates are encouraged to behave accordingly and must respond positively to correctional programmes and rehabilitation.
“These are just some of the factors which are considered when an inmate is to be temporarily placed out for a particular function.”
This was confirmed by a Correctional Services source who added that the media’s image of Pistorius does not tally with the inmate who has proved to be “humble and caring”.
“The Oscar I’ve come to know in jail is kind-hearted and cares for his fellow inmates. He buys food for those who can’t afford it or those who are far away from their relatives. And he does this without asking for anything in return.”
“Oscar also doesn’t deny what he did and shows remorse every day without faking it or to manipulate people’s opinions. This is the side he shows in jail and people should stop judging him.”
Pistorius allegedly keeps a low profile in prison where he did not enjoy any preferential treatment, said the source.
“He likes his privacy and spends a lot of his time reading and visiting the prison library. He’s a real bookworm.”