Anni Dewani Zola Tongo

Shrien Dewani is accused of murder of his wife Anni while on honeymoon in Cape Town. Image: Supplied

Shrien Dewani to be extradited to South Africa next week

Pistorius in the dock, Nkandlagate and now the trial of British murder suspect Shrien Dewani, who will finally be extradited to South Africa in April after a long battle. But will the inevitable international attention make or break the world’s faith in South Africa?

Anni Dewani Zola Tongo

Shrien Dewani is accused of murder of his wife Anni while on honeymoon in Cape Town. Image: Supplied

Shrien Dewani is accused of murder of his wife Anni while on honeymoon in Cape Town
Shrien Dewani is accused of murdering his wife Anni while on honeymoon in Cape Town

In the past week, South Africa has been in the international media spotlight for a number of reasons – the Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial, global coverage of the Nkandla report scandal and now, Shrien Dewani is to be extradited from the UK to stand trial for murder of his bride in Cape Town in November 2010.

The question of whether this Bristol businessman hired a taxi driver to kill Anni Dewani in a township near Cape Town makes this undoubtedly yet another international story.

So far, media attention has not done South Africa many favours in terms of portrayal of its violence against women and its crime and police system. We’ve had “bungling” detectives in the case of Pistorius and a dodgy tender procedure that saw the President get a home upgrade at the taxpayer’s expense. Will another high profile murder trial put South Africa’s morals and safety in the headlines again?

Wasting no time

A plus point for South Africa could be the speed at which the Dewani case will be heard. After three years attempting to defer his trial and protesting against extradition in the UK, the 33-year-old will be flown to South Africa and will make his  initial court appearance the same day. “He [Dewani] is expected to leave London on 7 April and land in South Africa on 8 April 2014. Upon arrival the National Prosecuting Authority and South African Police Service will cause him to appear in the Western Cape High Court depending on the time of his arrival,” Mthunzi Mhaga, justice spokesman for the South African government confirmed.

The Pistorius case is likely to have a verdict by May. When you compare that with the seven-year-long trial of Meredith Kercher in Italy, South Africa’s justice system will be seen as nothing if not speedy in meting out justice in the world’s eyes.

Corruption has already surfaced

While we’ve heard of stolen watches and a so called ballistics expert who handled Pistorius’s gun without gloves, it’s arguable any kinks in the police handling of Dewani’s case have been ironed out already. The South African police watchdog has dismissed claims by one of the accused in the murder of Swedish honeymooner Anni Dewani, that he was tortured or assaulted by police in custody. Mziwamadoda Qwabe, 25, had said initially that he was “hit all over his body” with a torch by police officers in an attempt to extract a confession.

South Africa – a misogynistic culture?

A recent Guardian editorial on the Pistorius trial said, “The wider culture of South Africa is on trial as a nidus of violence against women, a nation with the highest recorded incidence of rape in the world, in which three women a day are killed by their partners.” Yes, the South African taxi driver Zola Tongo committed the brutal deed — he has already pleaded guilty and been convicted — but the fact that a UK citizen is on trial, charged with bribing Tongo to pull the trigger, may help to correct the skewed idea that brutality against women is a global problem, rather than just South Africa’s.

Mental issues

Dewani has so far stayed in Britain on the grounds he’s too depressed and suicidal to stand trial in a country famed for its harsh prison conditions. But if he’s convicted in South Africa, the British press at least are unlikely to have much sympathy, regularly vaunting against Britain’s notoriously soft prison conditions for inmates.

Still, there is speculation as to what will happen to Pistorius. “Sleeping on a tiny bunk with little ventilation and fears of violence and rape: The notorious South African jail Pistorius faces if he loses bail,” read a recent Daily Mail report on Pretoria Central Prison. Pistorius’ potential fate in prison in South Africa could be followed with interest simply because of what it could say abut what might happen to Dewani. The results will inevitably reflect on South Africa’s perceived violent culture, which might not do its reputation as a safe destination any good.

Dewani’s case will add to the world’s current fascination with South Africa and the media hype that has taken it by surprise. The success of South Africa in dealing swiftly with such a serious crime might also help win it some plaudits and it will be interesting to see if it adds anything to the picture already mounting of South Africa’s judge-led court system.