The Dewanis: why do we care?

2010-12-15 00:00

A FAMILY I know way back in rural Limpopo buried their son, Uncle Yhadu as they fondly called him, in March of 2005. Apparently Uncle Yhadu was everyone’s favourite uncle in a family infested with many more uncles of love, integrity and good standing.

The story is that Uncle Yhadu was brutally shot outside his home in February 2005. The family were spitting fire because this was one of their own and this atrocity happened just the day after Uncle Yhadu had called his mother, my friend’s grandmother, to report how his estranged wife had just called to threaten his life.

According to the family there were many indicators that the widow was a suspect — the phone call, her lack of interest in coming back home when she was told her husband had been shot dead, her disinterest in the funeral arrangements and in observing the protocol traditionally followed by widows.

Five years later, my friend’s uncle’s killers have still not been arrested and Uncle Yhadu’s widow has, no doubt, happily moved on with her life.

Now, enter Shrien and Anni Dewani, the newlywed British couple who chose to celebrate their union in South Africa, just two weeks after their wedding day.

After two days in the country, at an hour when many, including tourists, were finishing off their dinner and heading for bed, Shrien and Anni (and Zola Tongo) gave up on their nocturnal and/or conjugal indulgences to hit the streets of Gugulethu.

You can barely find anyone on the streets of Gugulethu at that time of night. I wonder what they all thought they were going to experience at that hour? As reports say, a few minutes into Gugulethu, the predators pounced on the tourists, regurgitating Shrien and the driver out of the car through the back window, and fleeing the scene with the bride.

In the early hours of the morning, Anni’s body was found in Khayelitsha, riddled with bullets.

Breaking news the next morning: honeymoon couple hijacked in South Africa — bride killed.

Of course, the whole country became involved in this mystery, in one way or another, with many of us assuming the role of armchair judges on the matter. All sorts of aspersions were thrown around. Why did they need to tour “the real Africa” at such an odd hour of the night? They’d just eaten in Somerset West, why did they want to eat again? Why did they not heed the caution of their hosting hotel not to visit such areas as Gugulethu at night? Why did they not use the hotel’s transport instead of a private taxi?

In the end, according to us armchair judges, Shrien orchestrated his wife’s murder. We are livid. Why did he choose South Africa to commit such a heinous crime? Why is he giving our country a bad name as a tourist destination? Why is he taking advantage of Tongo’s economic circumstances?

Most importantly, we want to see justice done here, to the extent that we are also extremely unhappy about the fact that he has been granted bail in the United Kingdom instead of being kept in the deep dark cells or extradited to South Africa to face our justice system.

My curiosity though lies elsewhere. Why are we so involved in this murder when many of us have practically lost all interest in bringing the killers of our own Uncle Yhadus to book?

In my friend’s family’s case this should have been easier to deal with because they seemingly had access to suspect number one, his wife. The woman has never been arrested or been a suspect, let alone been questioned about her husband’s murder.

Would I be too harsh if I said we’re a nation of hypocrites in this regard? Or could it be that our loss of interest in our own Uncle Yhadus’ stories is an acknowledgement that there is very little we can do to ensure justice for our uncles and that the Dewani murder is an opportunity for all of us who have suffered or witnessed injustices to see this corrected. In other words, we have outsourced our desire to be reminded that good will still overcome evil in our criminal justice system. And it dare not fail us.

• Kaya Mabandla-Nyati is a client service director at a recruitment advertising agency. She writes in her personal capacity

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