Anni Dewani murder accused's torture claim dismissed

The police watchdog has found no evidence to support the claim by 25-year-old Mziwamadoda Qwabe, one of the accused in the murder of Swedish honeymooner Anni Dewani in Cape Town, that he was tortured or assaulted by police in custody, the Mail & Guardian can reveal.

Although the attorneys for Qwabe and his co-accused, Xolile Mngeni, said that both men alleged they had been tortured and assaulted, the spokesperson for the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), Moses Dlamini, said only Qwabe had laid a complaint.

Qwabe’s lawyer, Thabo Nogemane, told the M&G 13 months ago that his client alleged he had been tortured when he was arrested, despite his co-operation with the police.

This week, Nogemane said he was aware that the office of the director of public prosecutions in the Western Cape had declined to investigate the torture allegations of his client.

Qwabe’s mother, Nowi, a domestic worker who lives in New Crossroads, asked him to take on her son’s case a week after his arrest and Qwabe then complained that he had been assaulted and tortured.

“Unfortunately, there were no visible injuries, only handcuff marks,” he said. “My client was in custody and had not been able to get to a doctor, but he was complaining of pain when I first met him a week after his arrest. I took it upon myself to lay a claim on his behalf with the ICD.”

Nogemane said Qwabe was interviewed by members of the ICD in Pollsmoor Prison, where he is being held. The directorate said it could find no corroboration of his torture accusations. “We investigated Qwabe’s case, but found no evidence to back his claims,” said Dlamini.

ICD cracks down on police torture
The ICD confirmed last week that it had recommended prosecution in 34 cases of alleged police torture and assault in the Western Cape. In the case of the horrific death of 24-year-old New Crossroads resident Sidwell Mkwambi three years ago, the National Prosecuting Authority has decided to prosecute 12 members of the elite Hawks unit, although the directorate recommended that 14 members be charged.

The news that Qwabe’s torture claim has fallen away will be welcomed by the state prosecution team, because it will now avoid a “trial within a trial” that would have tested the admissibility of the confessions obtained by the police. The law dictates that any evidence obtained in an irregular manner is inadmissible in court.

Two weeks after Dewani’s murder on November 13 2010, the M&G broke the news that Shrien Dewani, her British husband, was a suspect. The story was initially met with disbelief overseas and Dewani was free to leave South Africa shortly after his wife’s body was found in Khayelitsha because he was not, at first, a suspect in the case.

This week, the British High Court will announce whether the two men could be joined in the dock by Dewani (31), who has been vigorously fighting his extradition to South Africa to face trial, claiming he would be unsafe in South Africa’s prisons and would not get a fair trial.

However, Dewani could still take his appeal to a higher court if he has the money to continue to fight his extradition, Nogemane said.

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country. Read more from Glynnis Underhill

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