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Cape Town - There would be no room for criticism – and to make sure, court staff involved in the Shrien Dewani extradition to South Africa were ordered, in writing and verbally, that there was no room for messing up.
Staff were warned that they were being watched from across the globe, so the officials had to conduct themselves professionally at all times.
The circular, which urged staff to comply in order to “portray our department as a professional justice system”, read: “This is an international matter and the eyes of the world are on us.”
The strict guidelines went so far as to exclude from the proceedings any staff there for curiosity value only. Staff whose services weren’t directly needed were banned.
In addition, s
taff were also forbidden from tweeting about the case or putting up pictures or posts on Facebook and other social media networks.
They were reminded, in no uncertain terms, that the code of conduct they had signed forbade them from speaking to outsiders about the case.
The strict approach did not apply only to court staff: a day before Dewani’s appearance, the Justice Department and representatives from the chief justice’s office met the media to set more guidelines.
Dewani’s travel details were kept secret for “security reasons” and, only once he had already landed, were the media told that authorities had chartered a plane from Bristol in the UK to transport Dewani, along with a medical doctor, a nurse and police officers to South Africa, at an estimated cost of around R3 million.
The Justice Department defended the decision, saying it was paramount that Dewani’s return to South Africa went without a hitch, and that nothing interfered with his appearance in court on Tuesday.
The department said the decision was taken due to Dewani’s medical condition, which a commercial flight could compromise, potentially resulting in an adverse effect on his recovery.
There was also a need to secure the entire team.
Well before Dewani’s appearance, sniffer dogs were used to check the courtroom.
Reporters had to obtain accreditation to secure a seat and, after the proceedings were concluded, the courtroom was cleared.
Photographs of Dewani in the dock were strictly prohibited, so a courtroom was set aside for the equipment belonging to photographers and cameramen so there was no chance of sneaking a picture.
Another courtroom was set aside for Dewani’s family, where they waited for him to appear, away from the public.
According to sources, Dewani’s brother, sister, parents and four officials from the British High Commission were also given the special privilege of being allowed to see him in the court’s holding cells.
Dewani was apparently so well treated that his family even thanked the police, the Weekend Argus learnt.
Dewani is in custody in a single room in the general psychiatric unit of Valkenberg Hospital, where his mental condition is being monitored.
He is due back in the High Court on May 12.