Khaya Dlanga

Dewani murder: What really happened?

2010-11-23 13:15

I don’t want to write what I’m writing. I don’t want to think what I am thinking. I don’t want to think about the speculation that a lot of South Africans have been whispering amongst themselves.

A life was lost. A foreigner’s life was lost in a South African township. In a country notorious for crime.

We hung our heads in shame when we heard. Not again, we thought. No one wished the crime had happened. No wanted Anni Dewani, wife of Shrien Dewani, to have died in a South African township or anywhere in South Africa.

We all wish that day never happened. But as the details of the story emerge, many South Africans are starting to ask questions no one wants to ask of someone who has lost his wife. There are many hows and whys and whats lingering in the air. We are dumbfounded. No matter how one looks at it, it is senseless.

Going back in time

Perhaps I should take us back in time, to a town in the United States.

The year was 1994, in the small Southern town of Union in the United States of America. The date was October 25.

The woman named Susan Smith ran to a house and knocked on the door. She told the people in it a horrific story. They would call 911 on her behalf because she was in hysterics. The caller told the 911 operator that a woman just came to the door and said that, “Some guy jumped into her car,” and that was not the end of it. He’d hijacked the car, “with her kids in it, and he took off”.

She told the cops that the hijacker was a black man in his twenties. The black criminal also waved a gun and jumped into the passenger’s seat and told her to shut up and drive or “I’ll kill you”, the black hijacker said while brandishing a weapon.

A few kilometres out of town, the hijacker dropped her off and took her babies with him. She begged him to let her babies go. He told her he didn’t have time. He took the car and the children - three-year-old Michael Daniel Smith and 14-month-old Alexander Tyler Smith.

In the days that followed, the national media camped in the small town of Union with police searching for the missing boys and the car. Susan would go to the cameras and say: “I can’t even describe what I am going through. It just aches so bad. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I can’t do anything but think about them.” Them being her two boys.


Days went by without a clue in this small town. But there were holes in Susan’s story. Many holes. The mother would eventually become a suspect.

The usual indignation followed: “I don’t think any parent could love their children more than I do and I would never even think about doing anything that would harm them. It’s very painful to have the fingers pointed at you when it’s your children involved.”

Needless to say, Susan Smith failed a lie-detector test. Twice. The failures were attributed to stress or medication.

Finally, the police questioned her again. This time she couldn’t take it anymore. She made a cold-blooded and un-motherly confession. She had killed her children. Susan had strapped her two young sons in the backseat of her car, locked the doors, rolled up the windows and sunk it in a lake. The lake would be their temporary grave until the car was found by police divers.

Susan Smith pointed out that the hijacker was a black man. It was easy to believe that African American would commit such a crime. Credit was given to the sheriff who looked at the facts that eventually led to the arrest of Susan Smith.

Susan had been under financial strain. Her new boyfriend (she was a divorcée) had told her that he was not interested in taking responsibility for another man’s children. She figured the best way to keep her new boyfriend was to kill her two boys. So she did.

Which brings me to my point: as some South Africans are starting to question the murder of Anni Dewani, all avenues should be looked into. The following questions remain unanswered. Why would hijackers let men go and take a woman instead? Two strong men only to take her watch and a couple of her belongings? Some are asking the question, why take her, and God forbid, not rape her?

Many questions

These are questions that need to be looked into. No one wishes that Mr Shrien Dewani had a hand in the murder of his wife, as some newspapers in England have indirectly inferred by saying that he is in millions of pounds in debt and thus might stand to benefit from his wife’s death.

While no one wishes that what happened actually happened because we all want a South Africa with a good reputation free from crime, it is easy to believe that a crime of this sort can happen in a South African township without asking too many hard questions.

The truth is, as South Africans we are sick and tired of being known as a murderous people. In a strange way, as sickening as it may sound and as terrible as it may seem, some - even though they wish they are wrong - secretly hope that this was a hit so that we don’t seem so bad.

We need to look at the lessons of Susan Smith too. Things are not always as they seem. No one says he did it. But there are many questions.

- Follow Khaya on Twitter.

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