Dewani still ill, going for treatment
Murder-accused Shrien Dewani is still mentally ill and needs treatment, the NPA said after his court appearance. "Actually I need to emphasise and make this clear. He is not going for observation. He is going for treatment," National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Nathi Mncube said outside the Western Cape high court.
"While he's in the care of his doctors, they will be able to give us more information in terms of his health and we will be able to make a decision going forward from there." Mncube said it was in the country's interest and Dewani's interest to ensure that he be in a good state of health before his trial started.
Before his extradition to South Africa on Tuesday, he was detained in a hospital in Britain for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
A few hours after landing, a bewildered-looking Dewani with grey streaks in his hair made a brief appearance at the court, surrounded by the country's and world's media. Dressed in a smart charcoal suit and black tie, he seemed to struggle to hear what was going on and sometimes winced or frowned. At one point, he whipped his head to look around the courtroom with wide eyes.
His father Prakash, brother Preyen, sister Preyal and other family members sat in the bench in front of the dock. They were accompanied by representatives of the British Consulate in Cape Town, who were providing "consular assistance".
A letter from Dewani's doctor was handed in at court, explaining that Dewani remained mentally ill and needed ongoing care. Judge President John Hlophe postponed the matter to May 12 in agreement with the state and defence team. "The matter is postponed to the 12 May 2014, whereupon you will appear before this court," Hlophe said. "Do you hear me?" asked Hlophe, after Dewani failed to respond.
Dewani looked down at his lawyers, before nodding and uttering the word "yes". "You shall be detained at Valkenberg Hospital," Hlophe told Dewani before he was led down from the dock to the police cells.
Mncube explained that there was a special court process for Dewani to be officially observed for trial fitness. "For him to be observed whether he is mentally fit to stand trial, an application has to be submitted in court by his defence; in some instances, by the state," he said. "But we didn't have that happen today… at this point in time, the doctors will only be focusing on making sure that he recovers."
According to the indictment handed to the Western Cape high court on Tuesday, he is charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, kidnapping, and defeating the ends of justice. It is the state's case that he acted in common purpose and conspired with Cape Town residents Zola Tongo, Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Xolile Mngeni to kill his wife. In return, the state alleges Dewani would provide payment to the perpetrators.
Tongo, Qwabe, and Mngeni are already serving jail terms in connection with the murder. Dewani has not yet been asked to plead. The NPA said Dewani was charged in a jail cell. "He was processed and charged by the police in a holding cell," said NPA provincial spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila.
Dewani claimed he and his wife Anni were kidnapped at gunpoint as they drove through Gugulethu in Cape Town in a taxi in November 2010. The couple had been on honeymoon in the country. He was released unharmed, but his wife's body was found in the abandoned car the next day. She had been shot dead.
The NPA, the police and the justice department have been waiting for over three years to get Dewani into the accused dock in a South African court.
Asked about the frustrations experienced in trying to get Dewani back in South Africa to face trial, Mncube said: "Any legal process of course has its ups and downs. It's been a long process and we are happy that we are here today and that finally we'll be able to start with the trial, and hopefully very soon." – Sapa