Dewani acquittal places SA's justice system in the hot seat

Dewani flew out of Cape Town International Airport this afternoon.

Shrien Dewani arrives at Cape Town International Airport on 9 December 2014. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The South African justice system has come under intense scrutiny both at home and abroad following British businessman Shrien Dewani's acquittal on charges of murdering his wife.

Dewani flew out of Cape Town International Airport on board an Emirates flight to the UK via Dubai this afternoon.

His passport was handed back to him yesterday shortly after he was acquitted by the Western Cape High court.

The court yesterday granted his application to be discharged because prosecutors failed to provide credible evidence he hired hitmen to kill his wife, Anni four years ago.

Prosecutors believed the British businessman had hired hitmen to stage a hijacking in which his wife was killed while on honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.

Judge Jeanette Traverso found the state provided no credible evidence to convict Dewani and granted an application to discharge.

Dewani's acquittal has been met with public outrage.

The African National Congress says the court's decision has fed into a developing perception that our criminal justice system serves the rich, and this perception could serve to weaken the public's confidence in the criminal justice system.

But law expert, Professor Karthy Govender says while the decision is an unpopular one, it was correct.

"We need to distinguish between the different aspects."

Govender says South Africa has an independent judiciary.

Video: Dewani leaves SA

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

South Africa spent almost R3 million flying him on a chartered plane from the UK to Cape Town earlier this year.


Dewani is expected to face a huge media scrum on his arrival back in the UK in a few hours' time.

The Briton is travelling back to his British home via Dubai, with the chaotic scenes at Cape Town International Airport likely to be repeated when he touches down in the UK.

The 34-year-old has not spoken about his acquittal but, with huge media interest in Britain, he will come under immense pressure to break his silence.

And as an innocent man, Dewani would also be free, if he chose, to negotiate exclusive deals to sell his story to the press.

Any payments for interviews would be likely to cause further outrage and dismay among Anni's family who feel they have been let down by the South African court system.

The family are continuing to consider civil action against him through the British courts.

Two South African men are already serving time in prison for Anni's 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.