Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where South Africa Failed Anni Dewani

Thursday, December 23, 2010   |  Comments: 1
By Michael Trapido ;

According to a report in the Mail & Guardian on Thursday Xolile Mngeni, the first suspect arrested for the murder of British honeymooner Anni Dewani, had a warrant of arrest against him at the time that he allegedly committed the offence.

Glynnis Underhill says in the article : “National police commissioner Bheki Cele recently told Eyewitness News that Mngeni had a slew of previous charges against him. "He was on bail four times, for murder, attempted murder, owning illegal firearms and other stuff," said Cele.”

Clearly the revelations are a serious indictment of the judicial system as suggested by Underhill.

More so if regard is had to the fact that in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act any bail sought by a party out on bail already requires at least a Schedule 5 bail application. With the charges faced by Mngeni as listed above it is inconceivable that any Magistrate could hold the view that he did not present a danger to society.

“Section 60 (4) The interests of justice do not permit the release from detention of an accused where one or more of the following grounds are established:

(a)Where there is the likelihood that the accused, if he or she were released on bail, will endanger the safety of the public or any particular person or will commit a Schedule 1 offence;”In a case like this it would be of interest to hear on what basis Mngeni obtained bail 4 times in light of the above section.
Certainly a probe into the conduct of both the state and presiding officer/s concerned is merited.

As stated previously regardless of whether Shrien Dewani is convicted or not the Mngeni-type situation is far too frequent an occurrence in South Africa. Often in cases where a tragedy could have been prevented the perpetrator is out on bail which is inappropriate.In the Dewani case Zola Tongo is alleging that he was approached to organise hit men not Mngeni in particular. That does not detract from the fact that – as pointed out in the overseas media – too many thugs are available at a pittance to carry out the most outrageous crimes.

If this horrendous deed leaves one legacy it must not be a string of convictions but rather a paradigm shift in the thinking of the South African criminal justice system on granting bail where there is evidence of violent crimes.

While flight risk, interference with the witnesses or tampering with evidence are pivotal to assessing the granting of bail so too – and perhaps even more so with our current crime rate – must be the question of Section 60(4)(a) be if the battle against violent criminals is to succeed.

South Africa remains a very violent society and while addressing social and economic inequalities remains vital to reducing crime so too is the mindset of the judiciary in making it difficult for violent offenders to be released into society.

There are many countries around the world with people just as poor, and sometimes even worse off, who do not seek a murderous solution to their problems.

If Anni Dewani is a victim of a hit then South Africa, in being selected as the place to carry it out, is the monkey not Dewani. The fact that outsiders consider it a safe haven for this kind of brutality speaks volumes about our country.
If it was not a hit the type of bail being afforded to people who should be behind bars makes the likelihood of this kind of tragedy happening again very likely. As above it leaves us as the primates.

Its time to get the monkey off our back.