Xolile Mngeni, accused of murdering honeymooner Anni Dewani, is to undergo brain scans to see whether he is psychologically fit to stand trial, his lawyer Matthews Dayimani said on Friday.
“This chap is going for scans on Tuesday and May 21. The doctor is going to give us an updated report in order for us to make an informed decision on whether to proceed with the application (to refer him for observation),” he told Sapa.
“These are the final scans. We have to make our decision quickly before the end of the month. Time is running out, so to speak.”
Mngeni was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour last year and underwent surgery and chemotherapy. His health cast doubt over whether he would be able to stand trial, or if charges would be withdrawn against him. The decision was made soon after to continue proceedings against him and co-accused Mziwamadoda Qwabe.
The two appeared in the Western Cape High Court on Friday for the continuation of their pre-trial conference.
Mngeni looked thin and trembled slightly. Dayimani was caught in traffic and unable to be at his client's side.
Judge Andre le Grange went ahead without him and postponed the matter to next Friday to give Qwabe's new lawyer Ken Klopper adequate time to receive instructions.
The National Prosecuting Authority's Eric Ntabazalila said the defence would have to approach Judge President John Hlophe if it wanted to make an application for Mngeni to be referred for observation in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.
The observation was an important step in determining whether he was able to understand court proceedings, and if he was able to instruct his advocate.
The State indicated previously it would oppose such an application.
“They must put up compelling reasons. We have indicated as the State that we are prepared, however, to reconsider our position should there be such reasons,” Ntabazalila said.
If Hlophe agreed, the application would then be heard in court.
Ntabazalila refused to be drawn into what the next step would be if Mngeni was declared unfit to stand trial.
“We cannot speculate. As it stands now, his last medical report indicated he was fit.”
A possible third co-accused is Anni's husband, British businessman Shrien Dewani. The State said on Friday it would only add him as an accused once he was mentally fit. The trial was set down for July 30.
Anni, 28, was shot dead in an apparent car hijacking while she and her husband were on honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.
An order for Dewani's extradition was signed by the UK secretary of state in September 2011, but Britain's High Court temporarily halted the extradition on mental health grounds, saying it would be “unjust and oppressive”.
Dewani is being treated in a mental health hospital in his hometown of Bristol, western England. He would be extradited to South Africa as soon as he was fit.
Mngeni and Qwabe face charges of kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, and two counts relating to the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
They remain in custody. – Sapa