Call For Authority Review As Dewani’s Acquittal Points To Weakness

PARLIAMENT should review the role and skills of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) after the poor handling of yet another high-profile case, an analyst said on Monday.

Independent political analyst Daniel Silke said the High Court in Cape Town’s decision on Monday to throw out Shrien Dewani’s case showed the NPA was ill-prepared and unable to do its work properly.

In a sensational ruling on Monday Judge Jeannette Traverso said the state had not sufficiently made its case against Mr Dewani.

He had been accused of masterminding the murder of his wife Anni while on honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.

Mr Dewani’s lawyers applied for him to be discharged at the end of the State’s case, arguing that the evidence against him was insufficient and he should be acquitted.

They brought the application last month in terms of Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

Judge Traverso said the prosecutors’ arguments had “fallen far below” the level needed to secure a conviction. She said evidence given by taxi driver Zola Tonga that implicated Mr Dewani in a murder plot was “highly improbable”.

The ruling is a blow to the reputation of the NPA after reportedly spending millions of rand to extradite Mr Dewani from the UK.

Mr Silke said there needed to be a parliamentary review of the role of the NPA in the country after the poor handling of Mr Dewani’s case.

NPA spokesman Nathi Mncube said the judgment on Mr Dewani’s case was disappointing. “This is the end of the process…. We accept this decision, (but) we are disappointed with it. We were satisfied there was a case, (but) there were serious contradictions,” Mr Mncube said.

Criminal law expert Niel Slabber said on Monday the state’s reliance on testimony of convicted criminals made it difficult for the courts to find Mr Dewani guilty.

It was unlikely that the state would appeal against the judgment.

“It is a section 174 application, so appealing this will be very difficult… the state will have to prove that the courts made an error in law or there were irregularities in the conduct of the trial,” Mr Slabber said.

Mr Silke said there might be a skills problem within the NPA, which has contributed to the poor handling of some of these high-profile cases.

This could have major ramifications on the NPA’s reputation which could make it difficult for them to extradite suspects in the future.