Koketso Moeti
Koketso Moeti

Oscar Pistorius, the hero that never was…

South Africa is a country riddled with extreme inequality, with the gap ever increasing. Last year it was found that “South Africa’s children still face apartheid-like inequalities with a black child 18 times more likely to grow up poor than his or her white counterpart”. The report went on to describe the differences in poverty levels particularly between black and white children. The Census showed that despite the increase in the income of black households, the income of white South Africans is six times higher than black South Africans.

In light of the South African context of deep inequality, it is very necessary to thoroughly interrogate any heroic status afforded to anyone because more often than not the side of the divide you are born into determines the level of your achievements more than anything else. Many South Africans found the heroic narrative surrounding Oscar Pistorius to be catching. He was branded the “hero who inspired across the racial divide” and all else was overlooked. The media created the story of a legend, someone who overcame adversity and did it just so gloriously. The truth however is that the Pistorius story and his rise has always been one of privilege, more than achievement.

@Thabo99 tweeted that “the reality is that it is artificial to split privilege from talent. Privilege taints achievements of all who benefit from it” — a sentiment I fully agree with. As talented as he is, would Oscar have overcome his disability to compete on the world’s greatest athletic stage if he had been born a black child of unemployed parents in Dihatswane or any other village? Would Oscar have reached the top if born in Verdwaal, a place where four children died of hunger and dehydration?

Not only has the story of Oscar been one of unquestionable privilege but even in its tragic twist he continues to find himself shielded by that privilege. Not long after the story broke @sacrisis wrote that “people now increasingly killing loved ones mistaken for vicious burglars. Now crucial to assist in edu of majority to reduce crime #Oscar”. It suggests crime is high because black people are uneducated leading to whites living in such fear that they are increasingly shooting their loved ones. There were many others like it. On Facebook I was rudely greeted with a post on my friend’s wall: “About Oscar Pistorius shooting incident, I believe it’s a conspiracy hatched just to carry out a legalised genocide against Afrikaners.” Although the sentiment was strongly admonished by my friend on whose wall it was posted, the message and many others like it are out there. It is unthinkable to many that a white person is capable of violence. His privilege continues to bring us face to face with the reality that violence in South Africa is believed to have a face and that face is believed to be black and of the working class, a sentiment echoed by the deafening silence of the DA and others on the matter.

His privilege allowed his “heroic” status to overshadow that a beautiful young woman had violently lost her life. It allowed #LoveandSupportOscar to trend on Twitter despite the fact that life that had been lost at his hand.

In this single case so much of what is wrong with South Africa has come to light. With this single case we face the reality that violence against women is not a “poor, black thing” — it transcends colour and class. We face the reality of the unquestionable and never-ending privilege possessed by some. The list goes on and on. Being brought face to face with these realities is going to mean very little until as a nation we choose to confront them.

It cannot and should not be acceptable that some are more equal than others by virtue of the accident of their birth.

Tags: ,

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    • Comrade Koos

      @Koketso Moeti

      “It cannot and should not be acceptable that some are more equal than others by virtue of the accident of their birth.”

      Writing an article to point that out does nothing. We all know that.

      Lets have some real solutions.

      Inequality will continue to grow in South Africa as long as we have a government that according to some respected people, provides education that is inferior to what the old apartheid government provided to blacks.

      We cannot move forward as long as we have a government that is not capable of providing good governance. Women and certain classes of people will continue to be discriminated against.

      What is your solution to getting South Africa onto the path of competent, transparent, efficient, accountable governance, that helps to create a more equal society?

    • Tofolux

      @Koketso and this ironically so soon after the brutality, the pain and the senselessness of Anene Booysen’s murder. But also, lets look at the way the details of this brutality vs the incomprehensible details of the brutality that the victim in this case suffered. Not only did they relegate the victim as a follow-up story, everyone so far has failed to admit or let alone write about the brutality she suffered. It a shame, its disgraceful and extremely painful to realise how difficult this fight against prejudice still is.

    • Zeph

      Ah, there are those statistics again and you have used them ingeniously.
      Obviously whites are going to earn more than blacks. To use that as a base for inequality is misleading flawed but at the same time true.
      There is a major inequality in education which will show itself in salaries.

    • The Naked Worker


      You need to replace the government that 19 years after the fall of apartheid still allows such prejudice.

    • Mr. Direct

      It would be an even better story if a double amputee from Verdwaal was able to run in the Olympics, but you know, it wasn’t. Does not mean it is not an achievement though.

      His appearance in the Olympics has inspired an entire generation of physically disabled people, and raised awareness of the able bodied people of the world that disabled does not mean useless. This is something to admire, something to celebrate.

      What happened on the 14th of February is not yet known, and some things may never be known. Hopefully he is punished appropriately if a crime has been committed. I hope though, this does not change the all the positive aspects of the summer of 2012.

      Your article actually makes me quite irritated, because you only see a white man. This would normally be the view of a bigot.

    • Tofolux

      @naked worker, it is not the govt of the day but a certain section in society who claims to defend our constitution and yet they are the ones who refuses to move in tandem with the basic principles of the constitution. In fact, some of them are so confused they cannot bring themselves to build this country as envisaged in our constitution. And by the way why is it that those who voted for the barbaric govt pre 1994 continue to this day to vote for a predominantly ‘white’ party?

    • The Naked Worker


      “And by the way why is it that those who voted for the barbaric govt pre 1994 continue to this day to vote for a predominantly ‘white’ party?”

      I don’t know, you will have to ask them, but I know many complain the ruling party is corrupt in incompetent. For me the current ruling party represent a new ruling elite that are part of the problem.

      I used to support Patricia de Lille until she joined the DA then I dropped her, so right now I am a political orphan, but am keeping an eye on Ramphele on the one hand, and the recently formed and soon to be launched Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) on the other hand.

    • Belle

      So a man with no legs is more privileged than a man with 2 legs, plus a govt that affords him free housing and services, AA, BEE opportunities, social grants, funding for higher education, and access to higher education over other minorities?

      What Oscar achieved had nothing to do with privilege. Sadly he effed up his own achivements and Law will take its course.

      By turning this tragedy of a dead woman and a fallen hero into a petty racial comparison you are only revealing your bitterness at not achieving anything in your own life.

      Kicking a fallen hero will not help you escape the mediocrity of your Self.

    • http://thoughtleader.co.za/koketsomoeti Koketso

      Consider this, the narrative surrounding Oscar Pistorius has always been about his ‘determination’ or that he had to ‘fight extra hard for it’.

      There are many people I know, who are determined too and willing to work extra hard too. But guess what? Everyone I personally know who is disabled is at best using a make-shift wheelchair because they can’t afford a wheelchair, never mind prosthetics. The average income of black families in SA is currently R5k per month & there are many households going with way less than that.

      So, taking into consideration the cost of prosthetics; the cost of the physiotherapy required amongst other things- is it not clear that what gave Oscar Pistorius the ‘upper hand’ is being born on the other side of the divide, the side that can afford all that. It may not be people’s focus at the moment, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The accident of one’s circumstances at birth currently are the main deciding factors of ‘success’ in SA- rather than hardwork or even talent…

    • http://thoughtleader.co.za/koketsomoeti Koketso

      I also find it odd that I’m the bigot, whereas on various social media platforms (some of which are quoted in the piece) the matter amounts to he didn’t mean to kill her because whites are not violent or it’s the blacks fault for being violent. I guess bigotry does have a face and my black skin gives me that face?

    • http://thoughtleader.co.za/koketsomoeti Koketso

      @Mr. Direct, no it did not inspire all physically challenged people. It just merely stamped the fact that a better socio-economic status allows a disabled person to do more. Do you really think that someone who can’t even afford a wheel-chair thinks they can ever compete at that level?

    • http://thoughtleader.co.za/koketsomoeti Koketso

      @Belle, funny you say that when there are more white graduates than black & whites are more likelier to study further than black learners. Funny you say that when you obviously do not know what it’s like to raise a child on R250 per month, which you seem to think is more than what black people deserve.

      Yes Belle, according to you I may not have achieved much- but for someone born with nothing (and I mean that literally) I have gotten much further than my peers- not because I work harder mind you. But merely because even with nothing, I was more privileged than many others- something I cannot separate from any ‘achievement’. But well, keep telling yourself otherwise of it comforts you…

    • Mr. Direct


      No, I do not think every disabled person will be competing in the next Olympics. That is not my point.

      Did one disabled child find a new dream seeing Oscar’s Olympic race?
      Did one disabled person change his or her mind about giving up?
      Did one able bodied person see the person, not just the wheelchair after watching that race?
      Did one more person contribute money to disabled charity after watching it?

      Now if you are looking for people to blame for financial restrictions, I do not see what Oscar Pistorius has done to be the object of your anger.

      If you started to say “he represents”, then yes, you are a bigot.

      If you started to say “he murdered”, then you must have a time machine.