Cape Town – British businessman Shrien Dewani was discharged and acquitted of the 2010 murder of his wife, Anni Hindocha, in the Western Cape High Court on Monday.
Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso said she had heard the pleas of the Hindocha family and said it was regrettable that there were so many unanswered questions.
However, she pointed out that she has taken an oath of office to uphold the law and was obliged to follow the legal position.
Even if Dewani testified and was a wholly unsatisfactory witness, the court would still be left with a weak State case, she added.
In fact, she said the case against him fell far below the established threshold.
Dewani’s eyes welled up as she read the last few words of her judgment and he quickly left the courtroom as soon as he was acquitted.
His parents, Prakash and Shila, sister Preyal and brother Preyen huddled together, tears streaming down their cheeks.
Dewani’s acquittal brings to a close a four-year-long saga in which he had vowed to clear his name.
Monde Mbolombo, the man who turned State witness and who recruited the gunman, was not granted indemnity from prosecution after Judge Traverso described him as a “self-confessed liar”.
She was equally critical of Zola Tongo, the couple’s taxi driver in Cape Town and said that after his evidence, the court did not know where the lies ended and the truth began.
“There is no evidence on which a reasonable man can convict the accused,” she said.
Dewani was extradited to South Africa earlier this year to stand trial for the murder of his bride, Anni Hindocha.
He faced five counts – including kidnapping, murder, and defeating the ends of justice – and has pleaded not guilty to all of them. He has maintained that he and his wife were the victims of a hijacking on November 13, 2010.
When the State closed its case, Dewani’s lawyer brought an application for a discharge in terms of section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act, saying the evidence of the prime witness, Zola Tongo, was so poor that the court could not convict him.
Anni’s body was found in a shuttle taxi on November 14, 2010, in Khayelitsha.
Tongo, the driver of the taxi, is serving an 18-year jail sentence and Mzamadoda Qwabe is serving 25 years. Xolile Mngeni died in prison of a brain tumour earlier this year.
It was the State’s case that Dewani approached taxi driver Tongo to organise a hitman and that Tongo had then turned to hotel receptionist Monde Mbolombo.
Mbolombo contacted Qwabe, who brought Mngeni on board. Mngeni was convicted of firing the fatal shot.
Qwabe and Tongo struggled under cross-examination, their testimonies and statements revealed to contain numerous contradictions.
According to the defence, the poor quality of their testimonies was not enough to convict Dewani, or even enough to produce a case strong enough for Dewani to answer.
IOL, Sapa and Cape Argus