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At the bail hearing today, Dewani's lawyer argued that the allegations by South African police had been made to protect the country’s tourism industry. The British tabloid the Daily Mail has reported that South African police have been under pressure to pin the murder on a non-South African, and accused police of leaking their suspicions about Dewani to the media.
Dewani was initially granted £250,000 (US$395,000) bail but following an appeal from the South African authorities, who are seeking to have him extradited, will be held in custody pending a High Court hearing in the next 48 hours.
South Africa, which has one of the highest crime rates in the world, is sensitive about critical portrayals of the problem, particularly by the British media. Ahead of the soccer World Cup in July, the British tabloids caused a storm in South Africa with their warnings of violence. One paper said that English soccer fans risked getting caught up in a “machete race war” and a “bloodbath” if they attended the tournament.
However, statistically it is poor, black South Africans who are far more likely to be the victims of crime, not foreign tourists.
Sharing the front page with the Dewani story today was the tale of a home-grown arranged murder, orchestrated by a woman convicted yesterday of having her husband ambushed, bludgeoned with bricks and pushed into the trunk of his car before it was set on fire.
Also fighting for space were other murder stories, including one about a charge of attempted murder against a security guard who shot an alleged illegal miner yesterday, and the death of a police officer in a shoot-out while on routine patrol.
Patrick Craven, spokesman for South African trade union federation Cosatu, said that he was worried about South Africa's reputation and feared it was attracting “those with criminal intent.”
“The murder appears to have been planned in South Africa on the assumption that hijacking and murder are believed to be so commonplace that it would be easy to stage a murder and then claim that it was just another normal criminal act,” he said in a statement.
“The implication is that this would seem credible given the high levels of crime in the country," said Craven. “This has enabled the international media to continue with the sort of negative propaganda about South Africa's crime levels which they were spewing out in the run-up to the World Cup.”