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Two of the men accused of killing honeymooner Anni Dewani intend pleading not guilty when their trial starts in July in the Western Cape High Court.
Xolile Mngeni and Mziwamadoda Qwabe appeared in court on Friday morning for the last leg of their pre-trial conference.
Judge Andre le Grange expressed relief that pre-trial matters were being wrapped up, as the conference had been postponed a number of times since April.
“This matter is now ready to finally start on July 30,” he said.
State prosecutor Shareen Riley said in the time leading up to the trial, both she and the defence would deal with admissions under section 220 of the Criminal Procedure Act. This meant that the accused or their lawyers could admit any fact placed before them, and that such an admission would be sufficient proof of the fact.
The two in the dock appeared calm during Friday's proceedings. Mngeni, who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour last year, was healthy enough to stand before the judge and was not shaking as he had done before.
His lawyer Matthews Dayimani told the court he would be updated on his client's medical condition by next Friday, following two rounds of brain scans.
He had previously told the court he intended making 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. Such an observation could lead to Mngeni being declared unfit to stand trial and possibly having his charges withdrawn.
Le Grange warned the lawyer that if he still intended to make an application, he had to give the State adequate notice. He added that he would not allow any more delays. The State intended to oppose such an application unless “compelling reasons” were given.
A possible third co-accused is Anni's husband, British businessman Shrien Dewani. The State recently said it would only add him as an accused once he was mentally fit.
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 it 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.
In earlier proceedings, the remaining accused, Zola Tonga, was jailed for 18 years for his part in the murder, in terms of a plea bargain. - Sapa