PRETORIA, South Africa -- Oscar Pistorius should be sent to prison for at least 10 years for shooting his girlfriend, a prosecutor said today while Pistorius' lawyer invoked the spirit of Ubuntu, an African term that includes compassion.
Judge Thokozile Masipa told the court she will impose her sentence on Pistorius next Tuesday.
The legless Olympic athlete was found guilty of culpable homicide last month in the death of Reeva Steenkamp, a model who was shot through a locked bathroom door on Valentine's Day 2013. The conviction carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison with no minimum prescribed sentence. During the penalty phase of the trial, two witnesses urged the court to sentence Pistorius to house arrest.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel cited the testimony of Steenkamp's cousin, Kim Martin, who tearfully told the court this week about the devastating effect Steenkamp's death had on her family.
"Every other mother who heard her evidence felt the pain. I felt the pain," Nel said. The prosecutor said Martin was not just the voice of the family, she was the voice of society, adding that her plea to have Pistorius sent to jail cannot be ignored.
"The minimum that society will be happy with will be 10 years in prison," Nel said. "This is a serious case."
The prosecutor rejected arguments that Pistorius, 27, should be spared prison in the spirit of Ubuntu.
"It's not even a principle that can be considered. The interest of society demands a prison term," Nel said.
Pistorius' lawyer Barry Roux, however, said Ubuntu is appropriate in this case arguing that the sprinter known as the Blade Runner was anguished by Steenkamp's death, had been villified in the press, would be vulnerable to attacks in prison because of his disability, and was broke spiritually and financially.
Tears streamed down Pistorius' face as Roux described his condition.
"My Lady, that is what is happening. He lost everything. This man was a global icon. He has nothing left, he can't even pay his legal fees," Roux said.
Roux said the principle of Ubuntu should be combined with restorative justice in order to come to an appropriate sentence.