Shrien Dewani: A chapter unfinished

Sunetra Senior Tuesday 09th December 2014 11:59 EST

Judge Jeanette Traverso's decision to throw out the case against British billionaire Dewani, accused of arranging the killing of his then wife Anni Dewani, wrought an earthquake in the news and all those who were following it. With his name cleared on the 8th December, Dewani was set to return to the UK as early on as the 9th. However, with revelations of a deceptive marriage that shone-literally-gold on the outside, potential plea bargains being made with the South African justice system, and the shocking image of a blood-stained Anni Dewani lying dead in the back of a discarded car, there is still much to be answered for beyond one man's culpability in a murder.

Footage on site at the Cape Town High Court showed Anni's family, the Hindochas, distraught with disbelief: “We've heard that Shrien led a double life and Anni wasn't aware of it,” said stoic sister, Ami Denborg, in front of the building, “The justice system has failed us”. Upon hearing Traverso's verdict, the family made a hasty exit so they could grieve together in private. Feeling wronged at a personal level, following the coming to light of their son-in-law's controversial sex life in which he admitted cheating on his wife via sadomasochistic fetish sites and consorting with gay escorts, Anni's loved ones had implored the businessman to at least take the witness stand so that they could what had happened to their daughter, officially in his words: 'to tell the world what happened the night she died' as father Anish pleaded. Traverso's termination of the case means that Dewani will not give any testimonial evidence and or recount the events.

The prosecution for the South African state had fallen “far below” the requirements needed to procure a conviction, Judge Jeanette Traverso ruled. The testimony put forward by the main witnesses particularly Zola Tongo, driver of the vehicle on the fated evening, was of such “poor quality” Traverso said, that she did not know where the “lies end and truth begins.” The allegations against Dewani, where the prosecution set out to prove that he had staged a hi-jacking in order to escape a traditional heterosexual marriage, was indeed rife with inconsistencies and furthermore, questionable conduct.

 In addition to the policeman who took Dewani's statement on the night of the murder 'losing' his notebook, the stories of the previously convicted South African nationals- Tongo and Mziwamadoda Qwabe- did not seem to add up. Tongo, already in prison for the kidnapping and murder of Anni Dewani, said that Shrien offered him 15,000 rand for the kill when the underground rate for 'hitting' a foreigner in the townships was found to be well over 100,000. Qwabe also claimed that another accomplice Mngeni- who was unable to testify as he passed away from a brain tumour- was the actually the one who shot Anni when it was Qwabe's prints that were on the gloves used to grab her.

On the 14th of October, Traverso had also stated that she was not convinced of Dewani's bisexuality being relevant to the case. As the court began to hear the very private details of Shrien's relationship with lavish German prostitute Leopold Leisser with him testifying “Dewani said he really trusted me and that he would like to do other things, such as having his face slapped, and being humiliated and degraded in general”, it seemed too much was being made of the billionaire's intimate, if scandalous, sexual habits.

This all contributed to the destabilisation of the prosecution's final piece of evidence: CCTV footage that showed Shrien meeting twice with Tongo without his new wife present. Rather than these being the times when Shrien organised the 'hit', the defence made the now more viable argument that Dewani was more likely being framed, and that the meetings were actually about a surprise helicopter ride for Anni, with whom Dewani had always alleged he had a deep spiritual connection despite his sexuality.

Van Zyl insinuated that accusations against Dewani were an attempt to redeem a criminal underworld conspiracy that had gone desperately wrong. He pursued the line of thinking that Tongo and the other convicted South African nationals were planning to use the billionaire's wife for ransom and that Anni had been shot accidentally when the culprits had clearly tried manhandling her. Tongo, who hails from a township referred to as the 'field of death', and with who Dewani shared many dazzling stories about the high-life, was said to have acted on what he saw as a money-making opportunity in the glamorous couple, with part-time model Anni Dewani's Giorgio Armani wristwatch, blackberry mobile and white-gold and diamond bracelet all confirmed missing.

In light of a racist comment made by Cape Town's former police chief General Bheki Cele that “a monkey came all the way from London to have his wife murdered here,” there emerged an even more radical theory that Dewani was being conveniently used to cover up South Africa's abhorrent murder rates where the anti-Asian sentiments of the region were being channelled. Zola admitted that entered into a plea bargain for his sentence to be significantly reduced if he agreed to testify against the British businessman.

However, with all this mind, the fact also remains that Dewani has changed his story over the four years since his bloody honeymoon in 2010 and that his defence lawyers were aware this would incriminate him if he did take the stand. It is true too that the unprofessional strategy of the prosecution have diverted from getting to a complete truth- the Judge dismissing the case partly in frustration. Whatever the motives behind Anni Dewani's death, whether it really was masterminded by a successful man of business, or entrenched in the local politics of an impoverished and corrupt system, the family of Anni Dewani remain in dire need of closure; the whole story behind Anni's death still a hanging question.

comments powered by Disqus

to the free, weekly Asian Voice email newsletter