Emotions run high after Dewani acquittal

Judge Jeanette Traverso has granted an application to discharge British businessman Shrien Dewani.

British businessman Shrien Dewani (L) sits in a car driven into the Western Cape High Court, on 8 December, 2014, in Cape Town. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - There were scenes of raw emotion and anger at the Western Cape High Court where members of the public voiced outrage over British businessman Shrien Dewani's acquittal.

The Briton was accused of ordering a hit on his wife, Anni Hindocha Dewani, during their honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.

Today, Western Cape deputy judge president Jeanette Traverso found the state has provided no credible evidence to convict Dewani and granted an application to discharge.

Traverso ruled there is no evidence with which a reasonable court could convict the British businessman for the 2010 killing of his wife Anni Hindocha Dewani.

"In the circumstances I make the following order, the application in terms of section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act is granted, the accused is fund not guilty and discharged."

Dewani stood expressionless as Traverso delivered her ruling.

The British businessman's mother wept and his relatives rejoiced as the news sank in.

Dewani's in-laws were clearly gutted by the decision as they wanted Dewani to take the stand in his own defence.

Outside, a crowd of journalists surrounded the court entrance, forcing staff to shut the doors.

Cameras flashed as the Hindocha family was led out.

Members of the public shouted "Justice for Anni", voicing their anger over the decision to acquit.

LISTEN: Criminal Law expert, Professor James Grant on what this ruling may mean for the National Prosecuting Authority's credibility.

Meanwhile, a legal expert says he does not find it surprising that Dewani was found not guilty.

Criminal defence lawyer William Booth says Traverso had no choice but to find Dewani not guilty in accordance to section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Case.

"Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act is pretty much the state's case is of a poor quality based on unreliable and contradictory evidence."

People who have followed the case religiously believe the judge made the wrong decision.

One woman said, "I am very heart sore, I am heartbroken and very disappointed in our justice system."

While a man outside court said, "If it was me and you, we would have been locked up today."

"The evidence and the way that we handled the case, that is very bad. I think the justice system failed Anni," said another woman.


Traverso spent over two hours summarising the evidence of three state witnesses.

She believes the men involved, former taxi driver Zola Tongo, hitman Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Monde Mbolombo are intelligent men who would not have gotten involved in Anni's murder for a few thousand rand.

She found contradictions in all of their testimonies.

This after state prosecutors had argued that Dewani paid R15,000 in a plot with Tongo and others to kidnap and murder his wife, charges he has consistently denied.

Traverso said even though the credibility of witnesses plays a limited role at this stage in the trial, she can't ignore the quality of their evidence.

Last month, Dewani's lawyer Francois van Zyl, filed an application for his discharge and acquittal in terms of section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

Van Zyl had argued that the state's star witness Tongo was an unreliable witness whose evidence was highly improbable and riddled with inconsistencies.

Dewani had been on trial in the Western Cape High Court since 6 October for allegedly masterminding Anni's murder.

Dewani was extradited to South Africa in April following the conviction of three South African men for their roles in Anni's death.

One of the men, Xolile Mngeni, died of a brain tumour in October.

He had been serving a life sentence for his role in the murder.

Dewani's trial is the second high-profile case this year to turn the spotlight on South Africa's judicial system and high murder rate.

A Pretoria high court in October sentenced Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius to five years in jail for shooting dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

For more on the trial and Shrien Dewani, click here.