While Oscar Pistorius fights a murder charge for fatally shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, his father’s comments that white South Africans need guns to protect themselves from crime that isn’t dealt with by the government have led to claims of racism.
Henke Pistorius told the UK’s Telegraph newspaper that his family needed guns because of the government’s failure to protect the white community.
He went on lay the blame for South Africa’s violent crime rates — which are among the highest in the world with 15,000 people murdered last year — squarely on the ANC government.
The African National Congress (ANC) has denounced Pistorius’ comments. ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said the party “rejects with contempt” the claim that the government was unwilling to protect white people, BBC News reports.
“Not only is this statement devoid of truth, it is also racist. It is sad that he has chosen to politicize a tragic incident that is still fresh in the minds of those affected and the public.”
According to The Telegraph, Henke said that many white Afrikaners living in rural areas are afraid for their safety and cited statistics that an estimated 1,600 white farmers have been murdered since 1990.
His comments came after recent revelations in South Africa’s Beeld newspaper that he and other males in the Pistorius family owned 55 guns between them.
“Some of the guns are for hunting and some are for protection, the hand guns. It speaks to the ANC government, look at white crime levels, why protection is so poor in this country, it’s an aspect of our society,”Henke Pistorius added.
In response, family spokesman Arnold said the rest of the family are “deeply concerned” about Henke’s comments, said Agence France Presse.
Arnold Pistorius continued,”the Pistorius family own weapons purely for sport and hunting purposes,” adding, “The comments [don't] represent the views of Oscar or the rest of the Pistorius family.”
The reasons why the Pistorius family have sought to distance themselves from Henke Pistorius’ comments are understandable.
Oscar Pistorius, commonly known as “Blade Runner” for his Olympic athletic feats, is currently front and center of a media circus surrounding his murder trial. He denies murdering Steenkamp and says he mistook his girlfriend for a burglar when he fired multiple shots in their apartment on February 14.
Following his release on bail on February 22, Pistorius is due to appear in court again in June.
Carl Pistorius, Oscar’s older brother, is also facing a homicide trial set to begin at the end of March for the alleged killing of a female driver in a road accident in 2010.