Would you take money from someone who killed your loved one? There was a time I thought I couldn’t but I’m not so sure now although I know many people who wouldn’t accept it because the last thing you want to do is cave to a person who took someone you care about away, whether in a car accident or accidental shooting as happened when South African paralympian, Oscar Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on February 14th, 2013.
Over the last couple of days as Oscar returned to court for his sentencing, it emerged that while Reeva’s parents, June and Barry Steenkamp initially rejected his offer of a lump-sum payment of R370,000 ($34,000) and considered it blood money, they eventually ‘had no choice’ but to take about $530 a month from the athlete to clear their rent and other bills.
Their daughter, a successful model and aspiring actress who was about to participate in a reality show at the time of her death, had been their source of livelihood and with her gone, they were struggling and so accepted Oscar’s money, which they have now said they want to pay back. I find that ridiculous.
I mean, for the last 18 months, they have been taking it so why stop now because someone let the “secret” out? It’s like stealing from a friend and making excuses after you’re caught. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not being disrespectful to these grieving parents or anyone else who has lost family or friends in similar circumstances. I’m just being pragmatic.
Whether we like it or not, Oscar is famous and there was no way his trial and sentencing were going to be ‘normal’ as would happen for ordinary people like us. We may never know whether he intended to kill Reeva or if it was simply a tragic accident as he claims.
What we do know is that a long jail sentence will not bring her back, harsh as that sounds and while people who commit grave offences should be promptly and aptly punished, I believe in this case, an out of court settlement would have served both parties’ interests. Oscar’s earning power is nearly nonexistent now and it will be worse if he serves a lengthy jail term.
On the otherhand, a suspended sentence and fine would allow him to compete or find other ways to make money, some of which can benefit Reeva’s family. I realise some of you may disagree with me but I’m thinking of hundreds of Afghan families, usually widows and orphans but also relatives who have and continue to be compensated following incidents when mostly US drone strikes ended up killing civilians thought to be Taliban fighters.
You can’t put a price on life but at the same time, this is a question of survival and sometimes you gotta do what you have to do to make it.
A friend of mine lost a brother a couple of years ago and he only died because some nurses at the hospital he was rushed to were negligent. He left three children whose lives were forever changed.
Everyone advised the family not to waste time and money they didn’t have suing them. I wish the hospital would be honourable enough to give them some kind of compensation so that his widow can perhaps start a business to support the family and keep the children in school.