Reeva’s dad ready to speak to Oscar Pistorius as parole looms
Blade Runner’s parole date has been postponed to allow a victim-offender dialogue to take place
The pain and trauma of model Reeva Steenkamp’s murder and former Paralympian Oscar Pistorius’s prison term have been dragged back into the media spotlight, as it emerged that the “Blade Runner” has qualified to apply for parole.
The law states that a convicted prisoner may apply for parole after serving half their sentence. This meant that, after he was resentenced by the Supreme Court of Appeal for shooting Steenkamp through a locked toilet door, killing her, Pistorius would be eligible for early release in March 2023.
“And that is what Reeva’s parents Barry and June Steenkamp have been mentally preparing themselves for all these years,” their lawyer Tania Koen told Sunday Times Daily.
However, this calculation failed to take into account that Pistorius had already served just over 500 days before the sentencing, which could validly be added to his time served.
Barry absolutely wants to speak to Oscar. I am not at liberty to disclose what the contents of that conversation will entail because of attorney-client privilege. But it is his right and something he wants.Reeva Steenkamp parents' lawyer Tania Koen
“This means that he qualified to go before the parole board in July,” she added.
The Steenkamps lost their only child Reeva on Valentine’s Day in 2013. She was dating Pistorius and had stayed overnight at his upmarket Waterkloof home when, in the early hours of the morning, he shot her through a locked toilet door.
He claimed to have acted in the mistaken belief that she was an intruder and he was protecting her. The state alleged he shot her during a violent argument, in which Steenkamp locked herself away with her phone.
In 2015, the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned Pistorius’s culpable homicide verdict and convicted him of murder and sentenced him to 13 years and five months in Atteridgeville Prison in Pretoria.
Koen said the correctional services department contacted the Steenkamps last month and invited them to participate in a victim-offender dialogue (VOD) before Pistorius’s case could go before the parole board for a decision on his early release.
“Barry absolutely wants to speak to Oscar. I am not at liberty to disclose what the contents of that conversation will entail because of attorney-client privilege. But it is his right and something he wants,” Koen said.
She relayed the couple’s desire for the dialogue to go ahead, and an appointment was made for correctional services officials to come to their home to plan the logistics. But two days before it was due to happen, the Steenkamps were told due to budget problems correctional services was unable to send officials to their home in East London, and the appointment was cancelled.
Koen was told that Pistorius’s application was to go before the parole board on October 27 or 29, without any dialogue taking place.
She was then contacted by Pistorius’s attorney, and together they agreed that the matter had not been sensitively or well handled. The Steenkamps had been unnecessarily retraumatised and the parole hearing had been put on hold until all reports and procedures were completed.
Julian Knight, Pistorius’s lawyer, confirmed that the parole hearing had stalled, that reports were outstanding and the victim-offender dialogue needed to happen.
“We are still a long way off from having the hearing. It will happen at some stage, it’s just not going to be tomorrow ... there is nothing new or different to report,” Knight said.
Social worker Mike Batly, CEO of the Restorative Justice Committee, said the victim-offender dialogue was an important part of the parole process that needed to be carefully and properly handled.
He said while forgiveness or reconciliation was not the goal of the dialogue, it was sometimes a possible outcome, if the case was handled well. He said it was necessary because one question the parole board was obligated to ask offenders was what contact they had made with their victims or what effort they had made to put things right.
“A VOD would be a precursor to this,” Batly said.
Batly described this process as a powerful one that not only offered victims a chance to speak out, but also to receive the support they might need to accept that the offender is going to be released. Offenders are also afforded the chance to apologise or explain themselves to those they have hurt.
Correctional services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said Pistorius and the Steenkamp family would be allowed a dialogue process before a parole hearing takes place, but no dates had yet been set.