“We came here looking for answers and we came here looking for the truth,” said Ami Hindocha, Anni Dewani’s older sister, on the day that Shrien Dewani was acquitted of her murder. “And all we got was more questions.”
That statement is indubitably true, and Vinod Hindocha’s book about the events surrounding his daughter’s murder raises even more questions. On November 13, 2010, Anni lost her life in Gugulethu when she was shot at point-blank range in the back of a private taxi.
Only in 2014 did her husband, Shrien Dewani, face trial, after four years of being accused of her murder – and this month, a British coroner told her relatives that although questions might still be put to Shrien, he was not obliged to answer them if they might incriminate him.
This book is a compilation of the Hindocha family’s pain; partly a tribute to Anni, partly an outlet for their grief and partly an exposé of Shrien Dewani’s conduct throughout the entire affair. It is a horrifyingly gripping read: one almost feels guilty, as though caught rubber-necking at the scene of a terrible accident.
Numerous questions are raised, and South African readers might find themselves ashamed of the seeming inadequacy on the part of the SA criminal justice system. Hindocha mentions particularly then-national police commissioner Bheki Cele’s comment that Shrien Dewani is “a monkey”, saying that at such a time of mourning, “people should not have been making cretinous remarks so freely”.
There is also the role of money in judicial systems and how wealth may or may not play a part in the rule of law. Such thoughts are only speculation, but it is shocking to read that by the time Shrien Dewani was extradited to South Africa, he had spent months living in a caravan on hospital grounds, from which he was allowed daily visits home – and spent time working out daily at his parents’ home gym and swimming pool. Not only that, but he was transported to South Africa on a private charter plane, accompanied by a doctor and nurse, at a cost of R2.9 million.
More than R2m of taxpayers’ money spent on one flight for an alleged murderer is a breathtaking obscenity. He was also allocated a private room at Valkenberg – which, realistically, does not even exist for any South African patient.
It is astonishing and sickening to see this evidence of how money talks, and worrying to ponder over who else listens when it does.
Much emphasis is placed on Shrien Dewani’s sexuality, with the terms gay and bisexual being used interchangeably (he stated at the beginning of his trial that he was bisexual).
This is an interesting aspect – it depends on readers’ own sensibilities whether they take it on as a central feature of Shrien Dewani’s alleged crime. Hindocha himself states repeatedly that he is not homophobic, yet seems to cling to Shrien’s “lifestyle” as the most offensive thing of all.
Understandably, a husband cheating on his wife is disgusting, but there is almost more emphasis placed on his sexuality than on his being a possible murderer. Some words used to describe it are “depravity”, “contemptible lifestyle” and “sexual deviancy”.
At one point it is almost implied that Shrien’s sexuality having been concealed from the Hindochas before Anni’s marriage was far worse than had he been a “job-shy alcoholic” and adulterer, or a “violent abuser”.
Shrien Dewani is, however, a victim only in the self-made sense: he had a choice all along whether or not to conceal his sexuality.
All-in-all this book is a testimony of the heartbreak and agony suffered by those left behind when a murder is committed. Page by page, there is nothing clearer than Vinod’s suffering, as well as that of his wife Nilam and their remaining children, Anish and Ami.
One can almost physically feel the sensations of the room spinning, the sound becoming muffled and everything pulling away as news is delivered that changes a family’s world for ever. This is a hard book to read, but it is important.
Anni Dewani - A Father’s Story by Vinod Hindocha is published by Zebra Press