“So, after waiting until the very last minute, they’re cancelling his parole? I mean, did somebody wake up suddenly a few days ago, realised that there was some political gain to this emotional issue and then started up the merry-go-round again? Is this about justice, or are they playing to a political audience?”
“It’s complicated, Servaas.” Gertruida toys with her empty glass while she waits for a refill. “The man did murder his girlfriend. There are many questions, and too few answers. In the end: being jailed for ten months for murder is about as lenient as you can get. Is the life of a vivacious young lady only worth that? Oh, sure – he’ll serve out his sentence of five years as a parolee, but still… I simply cannot balance the sentence with the crime, that’s all. But, even though that is the judicial outcome, I think the emotional damage is far worse. There’s no parole for that.”
Even in the far-flung little community of Rolbos, the apparently imminent release of Oscar Pistorius has been a subject of discussion over the last few days. Like in the rest of the country, opinions are sharply divided as to the fairness of it all.
“Ja, and the State’s appeal against the sentence must still be heard. That’s a strange way of going about it: postponing that appeal until after he’s eligible for parole, isn’t it? It’s like one of those real-life soapies the Americans love so much: you simply can’t second-guess the outcome. It is entirely possible that he’d be released from prison, have to sit through the appeal case, and then return to his new mates in prison for an extended period of time. That doesn’t sound very nice to me.”
“Shooting your girlfriend isn’t nice, either.” Vetfaan glances over at Servaas, shrugging. “It’s a question of accountability, my friend. We live in a society where accountability has gone out of the window. Look at the corrupt nature of senior politicians and leaders. Do you think they are held accountable for what’s happening in the country? Or do they continue to receive huge annual bonuses while Rome is burning?”
“They’ve torched Rome now?” Servaas knows about the busses in George, but this is news to him.
“It’s a figure of speech, Servaas.”
“Oh.” The old man tries to figure it out, fails, and pulls a face. “But they are burning stuff in almost every other town and city in the country, so I take your point.”
“Look,” Oudoom says, “we can argue about this for ages, and still not convince each other. The point is this: Oscar killed the girl. He was found guilty and sentenced. Now there’s a question of parole – whether it happens tomorrow of in a year’s time, it’s of little consequence. In the end, his sentence is a life-long affair.”
“Ag, come on, Oudoom! When his five years are done, he’s a free man.” Servaas draws his thick eyebrows together in protest.
Gertruida gets up to pace the length of the counter – a sure sign she’s about to deliver one of her famous speeches again.
“Not so, Servaas. Have you ever read The Prisoner of Chillon, by Lord Byron? In the final portion, where the unnamed prisoner finally is freed, he says:
At last men came to set me free;
I ask’d not why, and reck’d not where;
It was at length the same to me,
Fetter’d or fetterless to be,
I learn’d to love despair.
And thus when they appear’d at last,
And all my bonds aside were cast,
These heavy walls to me had grown
A hermitage—and all my own!
And half I felt as they were come
To tear me from a second home:
With spiders I had friendship made
And watch’d them in their sullen trade,
Had seen the mice by moonlight play,
And why should I feel less than they?
We were all inmates of one place,
And I, the monarch of each race,
Had power to kill—yet, strange to tell!
In quiet we had learn’d to dwell;
My very chains and I grew friends,
So much a long communion tends
To make us what we are:—even I
Regain’d my freedom with a sigh.
“The point I’m making, is a simple one: Oscar Pistorius will never be free again. His sentence and his prison are not confined to the real world we live in – it is part of his very soul and his every second of living. He’ll never be able to enjoy a quiet dinner with a loved one in a romantic restaurant or sneak away to a secluded little hotel for a quiet break. He’ll carry the burden of his actions on that fateful morning for the rest of his life – and possibly even after that. His celebrity status, his Olympic achievements, the time when he was an example to everybody faced with insurmountable problems – well, that will all fade away and he won’t be remembered for that. No, wherever he show his face, people will whisper and point fingers.
“His prison will be the memory of the 14th February 2013 – not just by society, but by himself as well. He’ll never be free. In the state’s prison he was shielded from the public; I can imagine there’ll be many a day he’ll long for that protection in the future.
“But his mind’s prison? There’s no parole for that.”
As usual, Gertruida has the last word. Yes, they all know she’s right – no matter what the law or the authorities decide, Oscar will never be a free man again…
“….But I’d trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday…”