Shrien Dewani is raring to go home

2014-11-30 15:45

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Shrien Dewani’s murder charges haven’t been dismissed yet – but the British businessman is in fine spirits and seems to be expecting good news on December 8, when his trial resumes.

This week, he was photographed smiling while loading boxes into police cars at Cape Town’s Valkenberg Hospital, the state psychiatric facility where he has been treated since arriving in South Africa in April.

“He’s very happy. He is in good spirits. And that’s not because of medication, because he isn’t on any,” a source at Valkenberg told British tabloid the Daily Mail.

A source close to Dewani’s legal team told City Press that his mental condition has improved significantly, and that when he arrived in South Africa to face charges that he ­arranged to have his new bride Anni murdered in 2010, he acted like a “trapped mouse”.

It seems that what the state called Dewani’s “peculiar medical condition” has mended exceedingly well at ­Valkenberg.

He has appeared in high spirits during daily walks around the facility’s grounds, each time accompanied by the same two guards.

At court, police officials told City Press that Dewani was “chatty” and known to crack jokes during breaks in the trial.

Dewani’s defence team has launched an application to have the trial thrown out of court based on a lack of ­evidence, and Judge Jeanette Traverso is set to rule on this on December 8.

Traverso has not endeared herself to some people who are following the trial. On Friday, a group called the Justice4Anni campaign launched a petition against ­Traverso, the second most senior judge in the Western Cape.

In the petition, they ask Justice Minister Michael Masutha to dismiss Traverso, saying she favours the defence. They are also asking for a retrial.

The state’s case against the megawealthy 34-year-old ­Briton has hinged almost solely on the testimony of taxi driver Zola Tongo.

Swedish engineer Anni Dewani was found dead in the back seat of Tongo’s car on November 14 2010.

The state argues that Dewani paid local thugs during a trip the pair took to Gugulethu to kill Anni in what was supposed to look like a hijacking. The defence claims the couple were victims of a terrible crime, compounded by Dewani’s wrongful prosecution.

On Monday, defence advocate Francois van Zyl called Tongo a “completely unreliable witness”. Traverso echoed this sentiment, asking state prosecutor Adrian Mopp ­whether he agreed.

Mopp replied that the judge should not “draw the ­proverbial line through [the testimony]”.

Members of the Hindocha and Dewani families have been in court daily since the trial started at the beginning of ­November, looking exhausted.

Whether he is freed or remains on trial, Dewani’s ­extradition and detention have cost South African ­taxpayers a pretty penny.

The department of justice this week refused to say how much had been spent on the Dewani matter, and the ­National Prosecuting Authority did not respond to requests for comment.

Dewani arrived in South Africa on April 8 after an unprecedented extradition battle. He was flown in from the UK in a R2.9?million Gulfstream V jet, complete with chrome ­finishes and cream leather seats.

Also stepping into the fray is Cape Town-based British journalist Dan Newling, whose controversial new book, ­Bitter Dawn, raises questions around Dewani’s arrest, inferring that he is innocent of murder.

Newling argues that the police, under pressure to protect the country’s reputation shortly after the 2010 soccer World Cup, arrested Dewani prematurely.

Newling, who interviewed Dewani at the Cape Grace Hotel three days after Anni’s death, said he wrote Bitter Dawn because he feared “a great injustice” was being done.

“I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be making any money from this book. My motivation really is just what I believe to be the pursuit of good journalism,” he said.

“People wanted to believe that he is guilty. Well, that’s exciting and a neat conclusion. But often truth is more ­mundane and complicated.”

Newling told City Press that while Dewani may not be a likeable person, this did not make him a murderer.

“Shrien was a coward to abandon his wife [after the ­attack], and a miser to lie to the hotels to get special [business travel] rates on his honeymoon. He also lied about his ­sexuality. But this doesn’t make him a murderer.”

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