Dewani mentally fit for trial, family welcomes ruling

Shrien Dewani. (Reuters)

Shrien Dewani. (Reuters)

The family of Anni Dewani, whose British husband Shrien Dewani is facing a charge of murdering her in South Africa, welcomed a court ruling on Friday that he is fit to stand trial. 

Anni Dewani’s sister Ami Denborg told the British Press Association the decision was a huge relief. “It’s a relief for all of us. We’ve been waiting quite a long time for this,” Denborg said from Sweden. 

“I know this autumn is going to be tough for us but we still want the trial to start so that we can get the information we need, we can get to know what really happened. 

“It feels like we’re moving forward. It’s still a long way to go but at least we’re taking steps in the right direction, and this feels like a huge step in the right direction,” said Denborg. 

The high court in Cape Town ruled that the British businessman had been found fit to stand trial for the murder of his wife Anni. This was based on a mental health report released in court on Friday. “The accused is not mentally ill.
The accused is not certifiable in terms of the Mental Health Act,” Director of Public Prosecutions Rodney de Kock said. 

Dewani’s lawyer Francois van Zyl said the mental health panel made a unanimous decision, including Professor Tuviah Zabow, who was appointed by the court as a psychiatrist for Dewani. “We are in agreement. There is no objection,” Van Zyl said. 

Dewani’s mental health
Dewani would go on trial on October 6. He would appear in court again on September 9 for a formal pre-trial hearing. 

Dewani appeared before Judge President John Hlophe, supported by his parents and siblings. 

De Kock brought an application in June for Dewani’s mental health to be officially observed in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act. At the time, he said observation was necessary as the mental health report prepared by Valkenberg psychiatrist Dr Sean Baumann differed in its opinion to that of Zabow. 

According to the indictment previously handed to the court 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 that 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. 

Dewani claimed he and his wife 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. – Sapa

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