Xolile Mngeni, accused of murdering honeymooner Anni Dewani, is not psychologically fit to stand trial because of a brain tumour, the Western Cape High Court heard on Friday.
Defence counsel Matthews Dayimani requested that Mngeni be referred for observation in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act to see whether he was able to understand court proceedings.
He told Judge Robert Henney that an oncologist had warned against Mngeni appearing in court at all.
“His condition, my lord, is that his immune system is very low and that he should not be out and about, or out of hospital, for fear of infection.”
Mngeni also apparently suffered from attacks in which he would get headaches, double vision, and extreme exhaustion.
Henney asked if there was any report to this effect.
Dayimani replied that it was not only difficult to arrange someone to see his client in prison but also very expensive to commission a report from a specialist.
“I'm sitting with a client who is incarcerated. These updated reports, in my view, are costly.”
Henney referred to the last medical report entered into the court file detailing Mngeni's health.
He read the last paragraph out, which stated that although the accused suffered from headaches and trembling, he was completely orientated, able to understand proceedings, and fit to attend court.
“You have to bring a substantive application. You must base it on something,” Henney told the defence.
“That is what I intend to do,” Dayimani replied.
Prosecutor Shareen Riley said the State was informed of the referral request but intended to oppose the application.
“Should he provide the State with a more updated report... we'll reconsider our application.”
Dayimani was ordered to approach Judge President John Hlophe with the request.
He would report back to Henney on May 11 when the pre-trial conference was set to resume.
Both Mngeni and his co-accused Mziwamadoda Qwabe stood quietly before the judge, although a few minutes into proceedings Mngeni was told to sit as he was trembling.
The two face charges of kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, and two counts relating to the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
The matter was postponed to next month as Qwabe could no longer afford his advocate Thabo Nogemane, and would need time to apply for Legal Aid.
Henney said it was only fair that the new legal representative be given time to get the docket, all the statements, and instructions from his clients.
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.
South Africa is trying to extradite Anni's husband, businessman Shrien Dewani, from the United Kingdom to stand trial for her murder.
An order for his extradition was signed by the UK secretary of state in September, but Britain's High Court temporarily halted the extradition on mental health grounds, saying it would be “unjust and oppressive”.
He would be extradited to South Africa as soon as he was fit.
Dewani is being treated in a mental health hospital in his hometown of Bristol, western England. - Sapa