Thursday, January 13, 2011

DEWANI: Is he a victim?

The report by the UK Mail on Sunday says that Ashok Hindocha, the uncle of murdered honeymoon bride Anni Dewani, could not understand why Shrien Dewani had not resisted the hijackers on that fateful evening, which shows that there are two schools of thought among her family and friends.

Anni, 28, was shot dead on November 13 during a visit to Cape Town's Gugulethu township. Shrien claims that the hijackers had forced the taxi driver, Zola Tongo, then him out of the vehicle. Her body was found in the abandoned vehicle the next day, on Sunday, November 14.

Following a detailed investigation Shrien was arrested in Britain at the request of the South African authorities who alleged suspicion of his having conspired to murder her. This came after Tongo confessed to a conspiracy in a plea and sentence agreement which saw him sentenced by the Cape High Court to 18 years in jail, for his part in the killing, and which will now see him as a state witness at the trial.

Tongo stated : "The agreement was that after the hijacking of the vehicle, both Shrien Dewani and I would be ejected from the vehicle unharmed, after which the deceased would be kidnapped and robbed, before she was murdered"

Two other accused Xolile Mnguni, 23, and Mziwamadoda Qwabe 25 face charges of murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping and are to appear in court in February 2011. They say that police coerced them into making statements.

The fate of the 5th suspect, former hotel worker Monde Mbolombo, is still up in the air with the possibility that he might conclude a plea bargain, become a Section 204 witness or simply be another accused.

All 4 say that Shrien was the mastermind behind Anni’s murder which is countered by Dewani saying that 2 were forced into statements and 2 have something to gain from accusing him. This together with the claim that South African Police are setting him up.

Shrien Dewani is represented by the brilliant British publicist Max Clifford.

2 Schools Of thought among Anni’s family and friends

These are that either Shrien masterminded Anni’s death or that the events proceeded along the lines of what Shrien said but, as her husband, he failed her in that instead of fighting back he allowed her to "suffer a worse death than a dog" as suggested by Uncle Ashok.

The first one is easy.

If Shrien was the mastermind then he deserves whatever he gets and then some. If we had a death penalty I’d be calling for it. Who shoots a bride on her honeymoon?

But if it was as indicated by Shrien, a hijacking wherein he and Tongo were ejected from the car, then I can give both families some relief.

Having specialised as a criminal lawyer in 1997, and dedicated my time to violent crime, I can assure you that no ordinary human being faced with those circumstances would think of anything but “I don’t want to die today”.

Many of South Africa’s criminals are as tough as anything you will find anywhere and have been known to shoot people for mobile phones or less.

Five or six years ago in front of my entire family I drove into our driveway to be followed by two hijackers who put a gun to my head. My wife, two sons and one of our workers were unfortunate enough to have to watch this unfold. Not once as they took my car, briefcase and jewellery did it ever cross my mind to fight back. I have had 2 years military training and camps and worked among these criminals.

Any resistance whatsoever usually means a bullet to the head.

While it is understandable that Anni’s family and friends are outraged by the events – and have my full backing – if the second scenario is what transpired you’d have to be an extraordinarily brave man to test the patience of hijackers.

You’d have to have been there to understand what goes through someone’s mind when they are the victim of a hijacking.

While it might appear cowardly to people after the event it is fully understandable to anyone who has been through it.