I panicked one morning when I couldn’t find the 24-hour Oscar Pistorius Trial channel on my hotel TV set. Naturally I’d done a mountain of my own research, but I’ve come to rely on the channel for titbits of background information to enhance my own breakfast reports ahead of a new day’s evidence. They can’t or won’t give us Sky News in the hotel and much as I try to keep up with the rest of the world’s news on CNN, I keep finding myself drawn back to the Oscar output.
It seems the channel that boasts ‘every angle, every moment, every decision, every fact’ was knocked off the hotel’s TV service by the appalling weather we’ve had since I arrived nearly two weeks ago. Torrential rain and floods are giving Pretoria and surrounding regions their wettest March for 14 years. My cameraman asked room service one night to send up some newspapers. Which ones would he like, The Pretoria News, Beeld, The Daily Sun? He said it didn’t matter, as long as they were big ones. He needed them to dry out his boots. While I and my colleagues may look the epitome of style and sophistication, below the screen we are wearing rain-proof trousers and standing on pallets. So much for South Africa’s summer and the sunny assignment my boss promised me after many long, winter shifts on the wet Scotland Yard pavement.
There are about 300 of us hacks here, so I’m demoted to a seat in the annexe court next door to the real thing. It’s like a cinema in the overflow, with a giant screen relaying most of the action while the audience responds to what’s said with ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’. It’s only a matter of time before someone breaks into applause.
Earlier this week, a member of the rather serious ANC Women’s League had to ask a group of young girls to tone down their laughter when a particularly smug witness told defence barrister Barry Roux that he couldn’t recall a certain distance because ‘I didn’t have a ruler with me.’ A quick check on the witness’s Facebook page revealed he listed sarcasm as one of his languages. Until that point, humour was the one thing this gripping trial had been missing.
Martin Brunt is Crime Correspondent for Sky News