Johannesburg - After being locked up for 10 months for killing his girlfriend, double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius is scheduled to be released from prison and go into house arrest on Friday, unless the Department of Justice intervenes.
What his steps after that will be are less clear. The first amputee to run at the Olympics might race again. Or he might wind up behind bars again if he is found guilty of murder. Prosecutors are seeking that verdict, saying his manslaughter conviction was insufficient. They appealed to the Supreme Court, which is to consider the case in November.
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For killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day in 2013, Pistorius got a five-year sentence.
Steenkamp's parents and several other people gathered on a beach in Port Elizabeth for a ceremony on Wednesday, their daughter's 32nd birthday. Footage from South African broadcaster eNCA showed them throwing red and pink roses into the Indian Ocean and embracing. The family asked journalists to keep a respectful distance and would not comment.
"We are still struggling with coming to terms with losing our precious daughter Reeva and her loss is felt even more this week," parents Barry and June Steenkamp said in an earlier statement.
With a big chunk of his prison time suspended for good behavior, he is set to spend four years and two months under house arrest — some media reports have called it "mansion arrest" at his uncle's luxurious home. It boasts a large, cross-shaped swimming pool and is located in an upmarket suburb of Pretoria, the capital.
The Department of Justice on Wednesday cast doubt on an early release, saying it is checking to see if a parole board decision was correct and "in compliance with the law."
Justice Minister Michael Masutha is receiving legal advice on whether he has the authority to "intervene" to prevent Pistorius' release if proper procedure was not followed. His decision will be announced before Friday, the department said.
If put under house arrest, the Department of Correctional Services will consider allowing him to train on the track, but international and South African sports bodies have already said Pistorius will not be allowed to compete during the remaining period of his sentence. Pistorius will be nearly 33 when that sentence is over.
At the Supreme Court, the second-highest in South Africa, a panel of judges will review Pistorius' trial and decide whether Judge Thokozile Masipa made an error in acquitting him of murder in September last year. If the panel finds Pistorius guilty on appeal, he will face a minimum sentence of 15 years in jail. South Africa doesn't have the death penalty.
Prosecutors argue that he should have been found guilty of murder for shooting Steenkamp multiple times through a toilet door in his home. Pistorius said he mistook her for an intruder and fired in self-defense. Prosecutors, in appeal papers filed Monday, said Pistorius intended to kill whoever was behind the door. During his trial, the prosecution accused the runner of shooting Steenkamp during an argument.
The family of Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and reality TV personality, has said "incarceration of 10 months for taking a life is simply not enough." Family lawyer Tania Koen told The Associated Press that Steenkamp's parents, Barry and June, are concentrating this week on
Pistorius family spokeswoman Anneliese Burgess confirmed Pistorius would live with his uncle, Arnold. Pistorius will have to live under "strict conditions," according to the corrections department. He won't have to wear an electronic device, department spokesman Logan Maistry said, but will be monitored by a probation officer.
The department would not provide other details of Pistorius' probation conditions, but they would likely include periods of compulsory community service, being allowed to leave the house only at specific times, and a ban on consuming alcohol. Pistorius will have surprise spot-checks to ensure he is not breaking the terms. If it's found he is, he could be sent back to prison.
Pistorius' track career will also become a focus again now.
Peet van Zyl, who manages Pistorius' track career, has not conceded that it is over, saying it's up to Pistorius if he wants to pursue running again.
Van Zyl said they will discuss his future when he is out.