Reeva Steenkamp's mother believes Wednesday's decision by South Africa's justice minister to block the early release of Olympian Oscar Pistorius is a step in the right direction — even if it only delays his release by a matter of days.
"I'm not worried about if it's a short delay,'' June Steenkamp told TODAY's Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview Thursday. "It's been set now, the precedent for him to wait now until the time is right. We struggle in this country with respect for women, and I think they've given justice now to Reeva."
Pistorius was scheduled to be released from prison on Friday to carry out the remaining four years and two months of his five-year prison sentence under house arrest. Justice minister Michael Masutha found that the ruling of the parole board to grant Pistorius release from prison after 10 months was premature and without legal basis.
The track star was found guilty of culpable homicide last year after fatally shooting girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home on Valentine's Day in 2013, claiming he thought she was an intruder. Thursday would have been Steenkamp's 32nd birthday, and a gathering was held in her honor by her parents and friends in their hometown of Port Elizabeth.
Under South African law, any offenders convicted and sentenced for the same crime as Pistorius are eligible for early release once they have served one-sixth of their sentence. Since a parole board decided on his approval to be released on June 5, which was only seven months into his release, the justice minister ruled it was made prematurely and blocked his release, surprising Pistorius' family as well as the Steenkamps.
"It was a shock,'' Steenkamp said. "I'm very, very pleased about this. It's an important thing for other people, other women. At least the justice system is coming through for us now."
While Steenkamp said Pistorius has "destroyed" their lives, she has said that she has managed to forgive him even though she believes he is lying about the events on the night of her daughter's death.
"If you're a Christian, you have to forgive, otherwise that poison will sit in your body and destroy you,'' she said. "It's better to use my good energy in the right place and try to save other women instead of wondering what's going on with Oscar. I'm not really interested if he stays. I'm happy now about this precedent that he's set because it will be good for other women in South Africa."