A visibly emotional Oscar Pistorius inside the high court in Pretoria. Picture: Phill Magakoe/Inependent Media
A visibly emotional Oscar Pistorius inside the high court in Pretoria. Picture: Phill Magakoe/Inependent Media

Oscar now in a hellish place

By Don Makatile Time of article published Jul 10, 2016

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Johannesburg - After his sentencing on Wednesday for murder, Oscar Pistorius seems to have returned to his cell at the Kgosi Mampuru II Prison a much mellowed man, like he’d accepted his fate.

Pistorius eventually met his fate when sentenced for murder after the 14 February 2013 killing of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

At the back of a trial that lasted seven months, he was sentenced in 2014 for culpable homicide, for which he spent a year in prison.

Upon his release, a protracted legal battle ensued to keep him out of jail when the State appealed - and won - his sentencing on the lesser charged.

He returns to Kgosi Mampuru resigned to his fate, if the decision not to appeal the ruling is anything to go by. He changed into prisoner uniform on the day of the sentencing, 6 July.

Corridor talk among the warders, unwittingly within earshot of visitors, is that the disgraced Olympian is less temperamental.

A female doctor who was asked after her relationship with Pistorius said they got on better.

This hush-hush talk confirms that Pistorius, who was initially held in the same cell when he was erroneously convicted of culpable homicide - instead of the higher charge of murder, was a menace to work with.

He is currently one of only two inmates kept in the single cells section of the hospital wing.

The one next to his was famously occupied by Czech fugitive Radovan Krecjir, a flight risk who has since been moved.

It is as cold and claustrophobic as could be expected of a prison cell. The warmth of the near-cubicle comes from his personal artefacts - family snaps on the wall and his sparse collection of books, which includes Men’s Devotional Bible.

The warders respect his space, almost like it was sacred ground. He was in the library when we took a tour of the facility on Friday.

Contrary to previous media reports, if the amenities available to him are a luxury, perhaps the term has a whole new meaning.

The ablution facilities - the bath, especially - are shared and as basic as Hell. The only embellishments are the holding rails fitted in the first time round and this to accommodate his disability.

Pistorius is only double amputee inmate at the vast jail complex.

The makeshift gym comprises 25litre containers that he uses as weights, and a sack filled with earth soil.

In this milieu of his new life enters Director Richard Malebana, who joined the prison service as a 19 year-old in 1985.

He is the head of the Local Prison, one of the four separate jails in the complex that also comprises C-Max.

Under him Malebana has 556 warders that Pistorius could ordinarily deal directly with. But such is the fame of the convicted murderer that he has gained a reputation of escalating his demands to Malebana, not his subordinates.

“On a few occasions he’s even gone above me to come to this office,” the affable Malebana says. “This office” is the office of the Area Commissioner Tlabo Thokolo.

“It is not unusual for an inmate to do that,” adds Malebana, almost apologising for his “Number 1” - as Pistorius is referred to among the prison staff.

Both Thokolo and Malebana moved to dispel the notion that Pistorius could in any way receive preferential treatment. “What could be luxurious about this?” asks Thokolo, gesturing widely at the Number 1 inmate’s quarters.

Popular opinion is that he got off lightly when he did not receive the highly anticipated and mandatory 15 years in jail.

But there is nothing light about his current situation. It is a world far removed from international travel, plush hotel rooms, high-powered engines of performance cars and beautiful women.

It is a hellish world where he has to constantly be on the lookout for male rape.

And whatever fraction he ultimately serves of the 6-year sentence imposed on him by Judge Thokozile Masipa, it will be nowhere near sumptuous.

The standard prison grub - served three times a day - can only be improved by purchases, strictly snacks, from the jailhouse kiosk. “He is not allowed any hot meals from outside,” Malebana says.

The best he can do would be to devour his collection of books.

That he will have ample time for.

The Sunday Independent

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