JOHANNESBURG — The family of murder suspect Oscar Pistorius on Tuesday rejected his father’s claim that white South Africans need to own guns because the ANC government does not protect them.
Henke Pistorius had claimed his family’s 55 guns were for hunting and for protection amid high crime levels that “speaks to the ANC government.”
The sprinter’s family said it was “deeply concerned” about comments Henke Pistorius made to British newspaper The Telegraph.
“The Pistorius family own weapons purely for sport and hunting purposes,” said uncle Arnold Pistorius, in a statement released by the family’s publicist.
“The comments doesn’t (sic) represent the views of Oscar or the rest of the Pistorius family,” he added.
Prosecutors have charged the Paralympic and Olympic athlete with the premeditated murder of Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of Valentine’s Day.
Pistorius admits shooting Steenkamp repeatedly through a locked bathroom door, but says he mistook her for an intruder.
The incident happened at his house inside a high security housing estate, east of the capital Pretoria. Police recovered a 9mm pistol at the scene of the shooting.
His father’s comments were at odds with the carefully crafted messages from Pistorius’s high-powered “media liaison team,” which is led by former Sun editor Stuart Higgins and Vuma Reputation Management.
Pistorius’s media team did not approve his father’s interview.
The comments also irked the ruling ANC and sparked an avalanche of comment in a country still riven with racial politics 19 years after the end of white rule.
Spokesman Jackson Mthembu said the ANC rejected Pistorius’s remarks “with contempt” and described them as “racist.”
“Not only is this statement devoid of truth, it is also racist. It is sad that he has chosen to politicise a tragic incident.”
Frans Cronje, deputy head of the South African Institute of Race Relations, said Henke Pistorius’s comments have touched off emotions stemming from anger about crime and the failure of policing.
“The perception is that the police are not interested in protecting minority groups in the country. The minority groups are correct. But they are not correct in thinking that is their fate alone.”
“In a safer society it would be easy to write off those comments as bigotry, but here so many families have been through so much trauma that the police have been unable to deal with and prevent.”
Official statistics show that at least 42 people are killed per day in South Africa, and crime is rife in poor overcrowded areas.
According to Gun Free South Africa, there were 1.5 million licensed gun owners and 2.9 million registered guns in 2011. The population is around 52 million people.
Several reports of Pistorius’s own fascination with guns have emerged since his arrest.
In January the sprinter, who is a member of a firearm collectors association, accidentally discharged a friend’s pistol at an upmarket Johannesburg restaurant.
The court also heard that he had pending gun licences for several firearms.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]