South Africans grappled with disappointment, shock and even nausea as sports hero Oscar Pistorius appeared in court on yesterday charged with murdering his girlfriend.
“I’m just shocked at the moment, like did he really do it? Because the kind of person we thought he was from what we saw on TV was something different,” Lunga Mubuza, 18, said in Pretoria where the runner lives.
“He was one of my role models. I wished one day I could be like him,” he added. “But now, it’s really a disappointment.”
Revered as a hero at home, Pistorius is seen globally as an inspiration after being the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics in London 2012.
The explosive news of his arrest on Valentine’s Day for killing his model and law graduate girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was followed by Friday’s court appearance in Pretoria.
Police have distanced themselves from early reports that Steenkamp may have been accidentally shot after being mistaken for a burglar at his home, and prosecutors plan to try the murder as premeditated.
“I was very saddened by what I heard,” said Casper Snyders, outside a parade of shops in the capital, which lies north of Johannesburg.
“It was disbelief but perhaps as the story went, the implication is there that he might be guilty. And I feel very sorry for her family, for his family and for Oscar himself.”
Another passerby, Charntel Paile, said the icon should be held accountable if guilty of the killing.
“Everything has a consequence so if he murdered her he should pay the price for murder,” she said.
The news of the Paralympian champion’s arrest dominated headlines yesterday, knocking a state address by President Jacob Zuma out of the day’s top news spot in several newspapers.
One daily, the Citizen, used the headline “Blade Gunner?” in a reference to his artificial legs.
Speaking a few hours after Pistorius appeared in court, Emilie Rakau said the matter was a “huge blow”.
“I looked up to the guy. He’s such a hero in our country. A lot of people don’t do what he does, and he stood up and did it.”
Another man, Quentin Smith, said “it’s a horrible shock for everybody”.
“Like my mum also said, she feels nauseous the whole day. I had goosebumps when I heard it on the radio,” he said.
Steenkamp was gunned down in Pistorius’s home in an upscale secure housing estate in the city.