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Dewani trial set down for two months

2014-08-15 14:36

Cape Town - British businessman Shrien Dewani's trial for the murder of his wife Anni is expected to take two months to finalise, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said on Friday.

"We have estimated a period from the 6th October until the 12th of December. So we all hope that we can get the trial finalised within that period," NPA Western Cape director of public prosecutions Rodney de Kock said after court proceedings on Friday.

He was unwilling to divulge the number of witnesses who were expected to take the stand.

Western Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe indicated during Dewani's appearance on Friday morning that he would assign another judge to the trial.

The court heard that a mental health panel had unanimously found that Dewani was fit to stand trial, including Professor Tuviah Zabow, who was appointed by the court as Dewani's psychiatrist.

"The accused is not mentally ill. The accused is not certifiable in terms of the Mental Health Act," De Kock told Hlophe.

The mental health report, compiled on Monday, was handed up.

Dewani would remain at Valkenberg Hospital for counselling and detention leading up to and for the duration of the trial, after a recommendation by medical superintendent Professor Sean Kaliski.

Kaliski advised that this was a better option than prison because of Dewani's history and progress.

De Kock said this was also in keeping with assurances given to the United Kingdom that they would "implement measures to safeguard his health".

He would appear in court again on September 9 for a formal pre-trial hearing.

Despite the permanent furrows in his brow, Dewani appeared relatively calm and sat during proceedings.

De Kock had brought an application for Dewani's mental health to be officially observed in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.

At the time, he said observation was necessary as the mental health report prepared by Valkenberg psychiatrist Dr Sean Baumann differed in its opinion to that of Zabow.

According to the indictment previously handed to the Western Cape High Court, he is charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, kidnapping, and defeating the ends of justice.

It is the State's case that he acted in common purpose and conspired with Cape Town residents Zola Tongo, Mziwamadoda Qwabe, and Xolile Mngeni to kill his wife.

In return, the State alleges that Dewani would provide payment to the perpetrators.

Tongo, Qwabe, and Mngeni are already serving jail terms in connection with the murder.

Dewani has not yet been asked to plead.

Dewani claimed that he and his wife Anni were kidnapped at gunpoint as they drove through Gugulethu in Cape Town in a taxi in November 2010.

The couple had been on honeymoon in the country. He was released unharmed, but his wife's body was found in the abandoned car the next day. She had been shot dead.

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