While Oscar Pistorius has spent his first night at home after nearly eight years behind bars, the mother of his murdered girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, said they were the ones who were serving “a life sentence”.
In reaction to the news that Pistorius was released on parole from the Atteridgeville Correctional Centre, west of Pretoria, on Friday, June Steenkamp said there could never be justice if your loved one was never coming back.
On whether Pistorius had spent enough time in jail, she said: “No amount of time served will bring Reeva back.”
“We, who remain behind, are the ones serving a life sentence.”
Correctional Services confirmed early yesterday morning that Pistorius had already been released. The department said he was admitted into the system of community corrections “and home now”.
Home is his uncle Arnold Pistorius’s Waterkloof mansion.
The department remained mum about what time he was whisked away from the prison.
While the media waited in vain outside the prison to get a glimpse of Pistorius, he was taken to a Correctional Services office in the CBD, where his release on parole was processed and his parole conditions read out to him, before being taken to his uncle’s home.
It was the same scenario in October 2015, after Pistorius had spent about a year in Pretoria’s Kgosi Mampuru Prison. He was released on parole at the time, also without the media getting a glimpse of him, after spending a portion of his jail sentence there following his 2014 conviction for culpable homicide.
This conviction was later overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeal, who then convicted him of murder. He was ultimately sentenced to 13-and-a-half years in prison.
Pistorius returned to jail to serve this sentence – this time at the smaller correctional facility in Atteridgeville – in July 2016.
Reacting to the news of his release yesterday, June said that February 14, 2013, the day on which her daughter was killed, had changed everything forever.
“This is the day South Africa lost its hero, Oscar Pistorius, and the day Barry and I lost our precious daughter, Reeva, at Oscar’s hands.”
She said that now, almost 11 years later, the pain was still raw and real.
“My dear late husband Barry and I have never been able to come to terms with Reeva’s death, or the way she died. Through the years Barry and I were encouraged by the love and messages of support from both friends and strangers.”
She thanked those who supported them through those difficult years.
“Part of Barry’s and my daily conversations were always flooded by the sorrow we felt for the parents and families of victims whose perpetrators were not brought to book. Our thoughts remained with them as they were denied any form of closure and the names of their loved ones never recognised or honoured.”
June said it made them feel guilty, but at the same time the trauma of reliving and re-telling their story had been a huge cross for them to bear.
“Whilst we remain grateful to the media, the intensity of the coverage of Oscar’s trial, imprisonment and parole has been a double-edged sword.”
She said the media interest meant the loss of their privacy, which made it difficult for them to mourn in peace.
“Sadly, reports were often accompanied by verbal and emotional abuse by some members of the public – not only towards us, but also towards our deceased daughter. It is my sincere wish, and it was Barry’s too, that people will take a moment to consider the impact of their hurtful comments.”
June said they did not seek the attention. “We would much rather have our loving daughter alive, and laughing, with us.”
Acknowledging that parole was part of the South African legal system, June said both she and Barry had always believed that the law had to take its course.
“Oscar Pistorius’s release on parole, subject to certain conditions, has affirmed Barry and my belief in the South African justice system. The conditions imposed by the parole board, which includes anger management courses and programmes on gender-based violence, send out a clear message that gender-based violence is taken seriously.”
Now that Pistorius had been released on parole, June said, her only desire was to be allowed to live her last years in peace, and to be able to focus on the Reeva Rebecca Steenkamp Foundation, to continue her daughter’s legacy.
People are, however, divided over his release, with many saying the justice system had failed the Steenkamp family and that of other victims of gender-based violence.
Many people were outspoken on social media and said Pistorius deserved to remain in prison for life. However, he also has an ongoing online support system through which people have showered him with messages since the day Steenkamp was murdered in his Silver Oaks mansion, in Pretoria East.
The overall message was that Pistorius had served his time and should be allowed to continue with his life.
Although Pistorius will no longer be in jail, he has not yet served his entire sentence, which will only be concluded towards the end of 2029. He will have to adhere to strict parole conditions or risk going back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.
As part of his parole conditions, the 37-year-old will be expected to be home at a certain times and he has to attend several programmes, including anger management courses.