South Africa

An Oscar for Oscar? Jani Allan says Pistorius had acting lessons for trial

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Reports surfaced over the Easter weekend that Oscar Pistorius might have taken acting lessons to prepare for his courtroom appearances during the murder trial of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

The allegations were linked to Pistorius’s dramatic displays of emotion in court, where he was seen sobbing and vomiting during the cross-examination by state prosecutor Gerrie Nel, causing the proceedings to be adjourned on several occasions.

However, the source of the claims soon turned out to be perhaps more interesting than the story itself: former South African Sunday Times gossip columnist Jani Allan had written an aggressive open letter on her personal blog last week, in which she had likened certain attributes of the athlete to the late AWB-leader Eugene Terre’Blanche, and had also accused Pistorius of having taken acting lessons to prepare for his courtroom appearance.

In her open letter, Jani Allan had said, “Oscar, I look at you mewling and puking in the witness stand” and further stipulated: “I have it from a reliable source that you are taking acting lessons for your days in court. Your coach has an impossible task.” However, Allan failed to go into any further detail on her “reliable” source and on what authority this source may have spoken to her.

A spokeswoman for the Pistorius family was quick to dismiss Allan’s letter as a “mockery of the enormous human tragedy involving the Steenkamp family and our client and his family”, denying that Pistorius had “undergone any acting lessons or any form of emotional coaching”. She also added that Allan and Pistorius had never met.

The story was picked up by The Daily Maverick the following day and then by The New York Post almost a week after Allan had posted the open letter on her website, featuring the headline “Pistorius took ‘acting lessons’ before crying on stand”. Fox News also followed the trend and ran a report on the story, as did various British broadsheets and tabloids.

In her open letter, Allan also compared the double amputee to th late South African right-wing extremist Eugene Terre’Blanche, with whom she was alleged to have had an affair in the late 1980s, effectively leading to the termination of her career as a newspaper journalist following a related assassination attempt on her life.

While referring to the notorious AWB-leader, 62-year-old journalist and media personality Jani Allan wrote about Pistorius: “Terre’blanche was cut from the same cloth as you, Oscar. He was given to boasting, vain in all things, narcissistic in the extreme and flying into terrible rages when things didn’t go his way. I suspect this description fits you.”

By her own admission, Allan, who has been residing in the United States since 2001, had been forced to resign from her erstwhile position at the Sunday Times after she had “become the story” following the aftermath of the Terre’Blanche affair. It would appear that while preparing for her South African comeback, with her memoir due to be published later this year, Allan might be committing the same mistake once more.

The trial is currently postponed and will resume on 5 May.

By Sertan Sanderson, 2014

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