The ruling on whether British businessman, Shrien Dewani will be free from trial for orchestrating the murder of his then newly wedded wife (Anni Dewani) will be heard on December 8 in the Western Cape High Court. However, as the day get closer, there is mounting pressure on Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso from the public, particularly one calling itself the Justice-4-Anni campaign group to have her removed from the state on allegations of bias. Another legal question that has come up in the increasingly complicated trial is that of whether the state witness in the trial, Monde Mbolombo should automatically enjoy indemnity from prosecution in this case because of the deal he made with the state during the Xolile Mngeni trial.
Monde Mbolombo is the State witness who was involved in the case in that he was working at the Century City Hotel, and was approached by Zola Tongo to find a hit man for the job. Mbolombo is said to have recommended Mziwamadoda Qwabe. Qwabe is then said to have brought in Xolile Mngeni, who was tried and found guilty of pulling the trigger and given a life sentence. He died in prison from a brain tumor some weeks back. However, in a deal that was brokered by the state, Qwabe, Tongo and Mbolombo turned State witnesses and within a few weeks, Mngeni was convicted. However, while Qwabe and Tongo were sentenced to 18 and 12 years respectively, Mbolombo’s deal ensured that he had immunity from prosecution. As the current case began, Judge Traverso expressed doubts about whether the deal Mbolombo had made automatically applied to this trial and warned that she might have both parties to present arguments about the issue. Law experts have also agreed with the Deputy Judge President that indemnity in one trial does not automatically apply to the second.
As the case approaches the crunch decision on whether the state does have a case against the British businessman, pressure is mounting on Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso who is currently handling the case to be removed from the case. In particular, a group calling itself the Justice-4-Anni campaign group is saying that she is biased and should be removed from the case. However, constitutional law experts have argued that this cannot be done as there is no constitutional justification to do this.
Whatever the justification or pressure that is involved in the case, one fact remains that whatever decision the Deputy Judge President will make will be a big one. If, in particular, Dewani is freed, the state will be exposed as being extremely disorganized in that after working so hard and spending so much state funds in extraditing Dewani, they could not build a case against him.