Discuss as:

Oscar Pistorius' father accused of racism over gun comments

EPA, file

Henke Pistorius (second left), seen in court here with his son Oscar (right), claimed the family had guns for protection and attacked South Africa's ANC government over crime levels.

The father of "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius — the Olympic star accused of murdering his girlfriend — has been accused of racism after he claimed the family needed guns to protect themselves because they could not rely on South Africa's police.

Speaking to the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper, Henke Pistorius criticized the government over crime rates in the country. His comments were attacked by the ruling ANC party and quickly disowned by the rest of the Pistorius family.


Police say they register more than 15,000 murders a year in South Africa, which has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, according to the United Nations.


"Some of the [family’s] guns are for hunting and some are for protection, the handguns," Henke Pistorius told The Telegraph. "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." 

He added: "You can't rely on the police, not because they are inefficient always but because crime is so rife."

Oscar Pistorius, famous for becoming the first person to run in both the Paralympics and Olympics, said in a written statement read to a court last month that he had fatally shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day after mistaking her for an intruder.

His father’s mention of "white crime levels" and the lack of protection from the government sparked an angry reaction from the ANC, which has been in power since the country’s first democractic elections in 1994, following the fall of apartheid.

ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu told The Associated Press that it "rejects with contempt" any suggestion that the government doesn't adequately protect white South Africans against crime.

"Not only is this statement devoid of truth, it is also racist," Mthembu said in a statement. "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."

It was a long and emotional week for Pistorius, who is accused of premeditated murder in the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius must surrender his passport and cannot return to his home, which was the scene of the shooting. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

Oscar Pistorius and the rest of his family issued a statement headlined "Pistorius family distances itself from Henke Pistorius’s comments in U.K. newspaper."

The statement said the sports star’s family were "deeply concerned about the comments made by Oscar’s father, Henke Pistorius" about the family using guns to defend themselves and "especially about his comments that the ANC government is not willing to protect white South Africans."

Arnold Pistorius, the Olympian's uncle, was quoted as saying "the Pistorius family own weapons purely for sport and hunting purposes."

"Henke’s interview with the newspaper was unapproved by our media liaison team," he said. "The comments doesn’t [sic] represent the views of Oscar or the rest of the Pistorius family."

However, in his February statement to the court, Pistorius said he slept with his 9 mm handgun under his bed because "I have also been a victim of violence and of burglaries before."

The South African Police Service's National Firearms Center said Pistorius registered the 9 mm for self-defense. Police issued him with his gun license on Sept. 10, 2010.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related:

Oscar Pistorius granted bail ahead of murder trial

Lawyer: Pistorius' brother facing homicide charge

'Nobody saw it coming,' Reeva Steenkamp's uncle says