Six months after the death of his beloved niece, Reeva Steenkamp’s uncle says his faith has helped him forgive Olympic star Oscar Pistorius for killing her.
“If I can’t forgive him, and I have been forgiven then that is our sin. And I very much asked the lord to guide me before I got to Port Elizabeth when the tragedy happened… that took a lot of pressure off my shoulders,” said Michael Steenkamp on the phone in Cape Town, South Africa.
Steenkamp says faith has also played a role in helping Reeva’s parents grieve their loss.
“I think Barry and June have done really well,” Michael Steenkamp says. “But at the end of the day, our whole family has not involved ourselves in animosity.”
Monday is an emotional day for the Steenkamp family. Reeva Steenkamp, a South African model, would have turned 30 years old, and on the same day, her accused killer appeared in court to enter his plea. Kenny Oldwage, Pistorius' attorney, tells CNN the trial will begin in March 2014.
Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder for shooting Reeva Steenkamp, his girlfriend, on February 13, 2013. The track star tearfully told a judge at hearing days after the shooting that he was “mortified” and did not intend to kill her. He said he mistook her for someone breaking into his home.
Michael Steenkamp says the model’s family isn’t focusing on Pistorius’ guilt or innocence, and they will not attend any of the related court proceedings. While the hearing is going on Monday, the Steenkamp family will be spending time together remembering Reeva.
“My wife and myself are going up to [see] my brother in Port Elizabeth, and we will be there with [Reeva’s parents] on Monday to be there for Reeva’s birthday. What could we do? Bake a cake and you know sit down quietly and reminisce about the qualities of Reeva’s life,” he says.
He adds that sticking together as a family has helped them cope with the intense international media attention surrounding Pistorius’ case.
“It is difficult, but the fact is we have decided not to make it too overwhelming. We must know where we are and who we are, and we can’t go off that track,” he says. “Any of the decisions made [in court] are not in our hands, really. And we are trying to compose ourselves as much as possible, and keep the thought of Reeva so we don’t get sidetracked.”
Michael Steenkamp says his thoughts of Reeva still bring him joy, and his favorite memory of her is when she used to ride horses with his daughters when they were children.
“You know, whenever we spoke we never ended off without saying ‘I love you,’” he says. “She was very compassionate, and I think we just lost a person that could have done much more for society.”