Thokozile Masipa: The woman with Pistorius's fate in her hands

Katie Grant@kt_grant
Thursday 11 September 2014 09:00
Celebrities

Innocent until proven guilty?

The judge presiding over the trial of Oscar Pistorius will begin delivering her verdict today. Thokozile Matilda Masipa will decide the fate of the Olympian, who stands accused of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day last year.

The world is watching…

The case has attracted international attention and it will ultimately be down to Judge Masipa and two assistants to determine if the fallen athlete, who denies intentionally shooting dead Miss Steenkamp in the toilet of his home, is guilty or not.

How did she come to oversee the case?

The oldest of 10 siblings, the 66-year-old judge was born and raised in a two-room house in Orlando East, Soweto, the historic township which saw dramatic clashes between the South African police and anti-apartheid demonstrators in the 1970s and to where Nelson Mandela returned when he was released from prison in 1990. “I had a real experience of what life was like when you were black and you were not educated. I’d seen these white... girls working on the offices, typing, doing all kinds of things,” the BBC has reported her as saying.

But she persisted?

Her mother urged her to go to university and, after working as a social worker and a crime reporter, she turned to law. She graduated in 1990 when she was 43 and in 1998 became only the second black female judge appointed to the High Court.

Obviously she has a flawless criminal record?

Actually, in the mid-1970s, she went to jail herself after being arrested while demonstrating in Johannesburg against the regime’s attempts to suppress a newspaper she worked on.

Any indication what the verdict will be today?

Last year she sentenced a man to 252 years in prison for raping three women in “the sanctity of their own homes”. She could acquit Pistorius or convict him on a lesser manslaughter charge for shooting through the locked bathroom door without cause.

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