24 February 2013

A Closer Look at Violence in South Africa - What Does the Data Say?

Media are scrambling to cover the story of South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius killing his girlfriend Reeve Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day. Stories include the latest details about the trial. Many have also mentioned that Pistorius was a bit of a gun enthusiast who was also fearful for his own safety. It sets up a story of an athlete living in a country that is characterized by violence.

Pistorius has maintained that he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder and shot her in the bathroom out of fear and in an act of self-defense. Outlets have pointed to a tweet by Pistorius in November when he thought that there was an intruder in his home.

And there are mentions of a New York Times article from early 2012 that features an anecdote where Pistorius grabbed his gun after his security alarm went off by accident one night. The author of the story then related joining Pistorius at the firing range with his 9-milimeter handgun. While facts that do relate to Pistorius’s past, some are saying that the structure of some reports are working to excuse Pistorius.

Gun Violence in South Africa

There is violence in South Africa. Much like their is violence in all parts of the world. However, some commentators are pushing back against the prevalent reporting. Journalist Geoffrey York, a resident of Johannesburg, writes in the Globe and Mail that the depiction by some outlets of South Africa does not represent the country he knows.