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When suspected honeymoon killer Shrien Dewani started dodging the beckoning South African finger, he hired a publicist to take his resistance outside the British legal process into the court of public opinion.
So the fight against extradition started, and goes on. The strategy was to put South African justice on trial, trying to switch attention from the case the fugitive has to answer, and stir a political issue at the same time.
With the skills of media strategist Max Clifford and a legal team, Dewani sought to argue that there would be no fairness in a Cape Town court – and all kinds of savagery awaiting him in prison if he ended up there.
They latched on to impetuous remarks by the then police commissioner, holding the police’s belief in Dewani’s guilt – that he masterminded the slaughter of his wife, Anni, on a honeymoon night near Cape Town – as proof.
It was unconvincing. South African officials countered well, and showed this up. Paired with this strategy was another by the Dewani camp: their client’s fragile mental condition, arising from the trauma of it all.
Now we have a bid for another year of psychological treatment for Dewani. We await more evidence and the outcome of this in five weeks.
But there is a crucial new element: a second man involved in the killing in Khayelitsha on the night of November 13, 2010, who has told in open court of Anni’s last moments. Murder accomplice Mziwamadoda Qwabe’s version, before being sent away for 25 years on Wednesday, largely corroborated that of the couple’s driver, Zola Tongo (who is serving 18 years for his part).
This switched the trial of the South African justice system to a focus on the British system. How long can the courts there keep depriving the victim’s family of justice? If they wait for Dewani’s claimed mental state to improve, his hearing may never happen. And justice will be denied.