A pit bull in most parts of the world refers to an aggressive and ferocious type of dog, renowned for their no retreat, no surrender mentality. in South Africa it appears the courts are full of them.
It’s no secret that the Oscar Pistorius trial has grabbed the attention of the world, but alongside the ‘blade-runner’, one other man is sharing the fierce and frank limelight, Gerrie Bel, also known affectionately as the pit bull.
Gerrie is called the pit bull, not because he boasts a square shaped head and bulky body type, but because of his abrasive, aggressive and confrontational style of cross-examination which at times has left Oscar Pistorius punch drunk and on the ropes.
The pit bull earned his chops and made his name at the 2010 corruption trial of police commissioner Jackie Selebi. Thanks to the pit bull’s no nonsense and in-your-face cross-examination, the former leader of Interpol and South Africa’s top police official got 15 years for police corruption. Somebody please throw that pit bull a bone!
Snarling and frothing at the mouth like a, well, it has to be said, pit bull, Gerrie has bitten into Pistorius and shaken him until he’s rattled.
Barking like a rabid dog, the pit bull snapped at Pistorius, “You are arrogant and you lie.” Thus cementing his reputation as the pit bull with a lot of bite and a belly full of bark.
The pit bull is now sharpening his teeth and enjoying the attention not just of South Africa, but the world as he mauls the double-amputee sprinter on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Yet the dogged prosecutor’s style of accusation, sarcasm, skepticism, with just the merest hint of amateur dramatics thrown in for good measure is apparently not that strange for South Africa, a country with a uniquely strange legal system.
The pit bull, who was once the regional leader of elite anti-crime unit the Scorpions, was arrested at home in front of his family and sent to prison in January 2008 on corruption charges. The charges were soon dropped and the pit bull’s commitment to his calling of digging out the truth at any cost was reinforced.
When the pit bull demanded in court that Oscar Pistorius look at a photograph of Ms, Steenkamp’s head wounds, before snarling: “That’s it — have a look, Mr. Pistorius, I know you don’t want to, because you don’t want to take responsibility, but it’s time that you look at it. Take responsibility for what you’ve done, Mr. Pistorius.” A world hooked on courtroom dramas gasped at the pit bull’s unrelenting, and cold and ruthless intensity. The pit bull’s provocative attitude is tailored to root out inconsistencies, half-truths and outright lies. Obviously, once the pit bull smells blood, he’s on the hunt and he doesn’t stop.
Yet even the pit bull is capable of compassion. When Oscar Pistorius couldn’t remember if Ms. Steenkamp screamed when he fired the first of four shots. The pit bull eased his foot of the throttle and said: “I’m giving the witness time to console himself. He is distressed.”
Yet the pit bull was soon again on the chase and this week has landed some body blows on the defendant that look likely to have some serious lasting damage.
The pit bull has accused Pistorius of shouting: “Get the f*** out of my house at Ms. Steenkamp and barked: “You were shooting at Reeva. You heard Reeva fall and you changed your aim.”
Perhaps most damning of all the pit bull’s accusations to date is, Ms. Steenkamp’s autopsy indicates she likely ate within two hours of her death at 3am and not 7pm as Pistorius has previously claimed.
With no explanation forthcoming from Pistorius, the pit ball said: “This particular point I put to you is devastating. She cannot have gone down and ate because the alarm would have gone off.”
Pistorius’s trial is far from over, but one thing’s for sure, the pit bull is determined to go the distance.