John Robbie: It's not just about Oscar
John Robbie calls for practical policies to deal with abuse.
We are supposed to be the Rainbow Nation aren't we?
We keep hearing about ubuntu and how every language in South Africa has a phrase for selfless giving.
In fairness for every bad story we get here there are hundreds of really good ones but, boy oh boy, do we manage to continually shock ourselves. And the world.
Oscar Pistorius, until Friday morning, occupied a unique place in South Africa and globally. His story was inspirational and after these Olympics and Paralympics you really felt that his superstar sporting status was going to be rewarded with a life that would be comfortable, challenging and fulfilling. Even his petulant outburst after losing the 100m was put down to his competitive urge and, as his apology seemed genuine, he was forgiven by all.
It is no exaggeration to say that he had transcended sport and became a human icon of the world. It was also his oyster and he could basically have chosen in which sphere he wanted to shine for the rest of his life. He could go into business and every door in the world would open. Who would not see him? The media would have climbed over themselves to pay for his services. Can you imagine the corporates and governments across the globe that would have rewarded him handsomely to honour their conferences and indabas with his presence and ability to inspire with his life story?
He could have been ambassador for anything that he wanted. Most of us were looking on with interest to see in what direction life would take him. He had done so well that able-bodied people envied him. For many he turned disability from something uncomfortable to something that could actually be cool. That is an amazing achievement.
Now his girlfriend is dead and unless there is a large rabbit lurking in a surprise hat, his life is ruined.
In the last week the whole country has been shocked at the abomination in Bredasdorp. We have also been treated to allegations, at this stage unproven, of a top businessman and politician who is handy with his dukes when standing bravely up to his tiny wife. Daily we see gender violence on a level that is not normal. Not that violence should ever be normal but you know what I mean. We tend to sit smugly in our middle to upper class ivory towers and discuss the psychological scars that poverty and apartheid have inflicted on the poorest in our population. However this is self-righteous delusion.
We now hear whispered rumours about Oscar and his lifestyle. It is always the same when someone is caught. In England Jimmy Saville, the loveable philanthropist and deejay, was actually one of the worst pedophiles in the country's history came as a massive shock. Then details stared to emerge.
A trickle became a deluge and now everyone is asking how he got away with his crimes for over fifty years when so many knew or suspected. Shame might actually bring about change there.
Maybe we will never know exactly what happened in that luxury estate in Pretoria on Thursday morning. However just as Hansie's sad tale demonstrated that everyone, regardless of reputation, has a temptation threshold that can be crossed, Oscar's catastrophe and the tragic death of Reeva Steenkamp show us that violence and the abuse of women is not restricted to people in certain socio-economic groups or traditions.
We need to explore the origins of this plague and implement practical policies to prevent, to treat and to convict. We don't need marches or ribbons or plastic wrist bands. We need research and measurable action. Just maybe other sporting icons, who can inspire the world, have a role to play in this desperately needed crusade.
This column appeared in The Saturday Star.