British businessman and murder accused Shrien Dewani is expected to hear on Monday whether he can leave South Africa and return home a free man.
Western Cape High Court Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso, despite facing a petition calling for her recusal, will decide whether Dewani’s application to be discharged of killing his wife Anni has been successful.
Dewani’s lawyers brought the application last month in terms of section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act. This opened the way for a discharge if the court believed there was no credible evidence at the close of the State’s case.
Two days were set aside for the defence and the State to present arguments in the application. Dewani is on trial for allegedly plotting with shuttle taxi driver Zola Tongo and others to kill Anni while the couple was on honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges including kidnapping, murder, and defeating the ends of justice. He claims the couple was hijacked while Tongo drove them through Gugulethu in his minibus on Saturday, November 13, 2010. He was released unharmed and Anni was driven away. She was found shot dead in the abandoned minibus in Khayelitsha the next morning.
The State alleges he conspired with others to stage the hijacking, for which he paid R15,000. Tongo is serving an 18-year jail term and Mziwamadoda Qwabe a 25-year jail term. Xolile Mngeni was serving life in jail for firing the shot that killed Anni, but died in prison from a brain tumour on October 18.
Hotel receptionist Monde Mbolombo was granted immunity from prosecution on two charges during Mngeni’s trial, but was warned he faced possible prosecution on various charges if he did not testify truthfully during Dewani’s trial.
In bringing the application for the discharge, Francois van Zyl, for Dewani, argued there was no credible evidence against his client. He spent a day trying to convince the court that various testimonies against Dewani held no weight and could not be relied on.
The State argued that the men who planned to kill Anni were amateurs and did not discuss finer details. Prosecutor Adrian Mopp argued that certain people, with their world view, would expect a level of sophistication in the planning.
During Mopp’s closing argument on November 25, Traverso asked if he agreed that the State’s argument, that there was a conspiracy to kill Anni, rested on a single witness. Mopp agreed that Tongo, as an accomplice and witness, was the only person who communicated with Dewani.
Traverso said he was an unsatisfactory witness, which the State conceded.
Traverso said Dewani’s involvement had to be corroborated, which did not seem to the case in the present matter. Mopp said the State could point to additional circumstantial evidence.
A petition calling for Traverso’s recusal was recently sent to Justice Minister Michael Masutha. A Facebook group, “Justice4Anni”, handed the petition, with 2401 signatures, and a dossier, to the justice department in Cape Town on Thursday.
The petition contains a call for Masutha to dismiss Traverso, investigate her “biased” conduct during the trial, and order a re-trial with a new judge.
Masutha’s spokesman said on Saturday it was up to the court to decide on the matter.
The parents of slain model Reeva Steenkamp were reportedly supporting Anni’s parents. On Saturday, Anni’s father Vinod Hindocha, told the Saturday Star that Reeva’s parents had said they would support the family, for which they were very grateful.
“Mr Steenkamp and I talked about Reeva and Anni and I gave him my sympathy too. Only he and I as fathers can properly understand the pain of losing a daughter to bullets and then experience very difficult and high-profile cases,” Hindocha was quoted as saying. SAPA