With all the various media coverage, statements from families, and other reports, it is hard to really get a clear idea of why Shrien Dewani has featured in the news so often, and what actually occurred to put him in this spotlight.
Shrien Dewani and his wife, Anni, travelled to Cape Town, South Africa, in November 2010 in order to celebrate their honeymoon, having been married 9 days previously.
After dining at a restaurant, the couple were driven by Zola Tongo, their driver, around the Gugulethu district, in order to see the ‘Real Africa’. Whilst driving, their car was hijacked by two armed men, who removed the driver, Tongo. They were then driven around at gunpoint for approx. 20-40 minutes, before Shrien was ‘thrown out the back window’.
That next morning, after Shrien had alerted the authorities, Anni was found dead, shot in the neck, around 2 miles away in a nearby township. During the following investigation, Xolile Mngeni, Mziwamadoda Qwabe, and Zola Tongo (the couple’s driver) were all arrested and charged with the aggravated robbery, kidnapping and murder of Anni Dewani.
Zola Tongo pleaded guilty to the charge of Murder under a plea bargain (in which he was offered a reduced sentence if he pleaded guilty). During his subsequent trial, he claimed that he had been paid 15,000 rand (only about £1,000!) by Shrien in order to arrange the kidnapping and following murder of his wife with the two other suspects.
After their respective trials, Tongo was sentenced to 18 years in prison, Qwabe 25 years, and Mngeni life imprisonment. Mngeni died in jail from a brain tumour in 2014.
Tongo’s allegations brought Shrien to the attention of the South African police, who wanted to have him extradited and face prosecution/assist with the investigation, as he was currently in the UK. Due to the UK having an extradition treaty with South Africa, they complied and promptly arrest Mr. Dewani. He was then released him on bail, during which time his mental health deteriorated massively, leading to him being incarcerated in a secure psychiatric unit.
His mental issues understandably raised questions over whether or not he should still be extradited. This then led to a lengthy legal battle, spanning almost 4 years. The first decision in this chain of events actually was not in his favour however, and Theresa May, the Home Secretary, signed off the extradition papers.
This decision however was subsequently overturned by a court, based on the aforementioned issues over his mental ability to face a trial. An updated ruling into his mental state occurred in 2013, with a Judge ruling that he was fit to stand trial, and thus go to South Africa. He appealed this decision, but it was rejected, and on 7th April 2014, he was finally extradited.
The Trial and Outcome
Mr. Dewani then appeared in Court the morning following his arrival in the country. He was charged with 5 counts, the most serious of which being Murder. At the pre-trial hearing, he addressed reports circulating in the media with regards to his sexuality. He admitted that he was bisexual, and had been paying for German prostitutes during his relationship with Anni Dewani. However, he did maintain that he was always fully in love with her. He pleaded not guilty to all counts that he was charged with.
It soon became clear, however, that the prosecution’s case was a flimsy one, with the judge commenting that that the evidence collected fell “Far below the threshold” and was “Riddled with contradictions”. The only way, in her opinion, in which he could have been convicted was if he had managed to incriminate himself via cross-examination. Based on this, the case was thrown out court, on the grounds that there was very little chance of a successful conviction, and Shrien Dewani walked free. It is important to stress, however, that he had by no means proved his innocence.
Whilst this appears to be a reasonable and rational decision taken by the judge in question, questions must be asked how this was allowed to happen, and why was the prosecution’s case so weak? Or perhaps this was down to police failings when investigating the case? Whatever and whoever were to blame, the family of Anni Dewani was understandably distraught at this decision. They felt strongly that there are still questions that need to be answered, and that justice had not been ultimately served. Ashok Hindocha, her uncle said that “We were hoping for closure. We still do not have that but hope that we will have it in the near future.”
Her uncle continued: “We need to get the family together here and see what options we have, what possibilities we have to continue the process.” There remains the strong possibility that her family will try to seek some sort of legal action, most likely through the civil process, back in the UK. After such a horrible events, there seems to be some optimism that, along with the 3 other convictions, that justice may still be on the cards.