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British man arrested over his bride’s murder in South Africa. Charges dismissed in real-life “Godfather” case. Teenage gang rape victim charged with rape. Africa’s biggest lender warns of year-end earnings drop. Tips for avoiding pre-Christmas shopping mall robberies. And Wikileaks revelations on top South Africa’s top leaders.
Top News: The tragic murder of a tourist on her honeymoon in South Africa took a shocking twist when her husband was arrested and charged with arranging her death in a staged carjacking. British businessman Shrien Dewani is facing extradition to South Africa in connection with the death of his new wife Anni, a Swedish citizen. A taxi driver hired by Dewani has been sentenced to 18 years in jail for his role in arranging the murder, and in a detailed confession said that Dewani offered him 15,000 rand (about $2,165) for the hit.
Dewani’s motive, if he is indeed guilty, remains unclear. His wife Anni was shot after their taxi was carjacked when the couple made a late-night trip into Gugulethu township near Cape Town. Police are now investigating a possible link between Dewani and the 2007 murder of a local doctor. Meanwhile, South Africans are fretting about the effect of the murder and the apparent ease of hiring a hitman on their country’s reputation as a tourist destination.
In another high-profile crime story that gripped South Africa, convicted drug dealer Glenn Agliotti was cleared of charges in the bizarre murder of mining magnate Brett Kebble, shot to death in Johannesburg in 2005 in what was described as an “assisted suicide.” Agliotti had come to prominence as the “friend” of former police chief Jackie Selebi, found guilty of corruption earlier this year. Evidence presented by the state’s star witness in the Agliotti case was deemed unreliable, despite the witness having been granted indemnity for testifying against Agliotti. The judge presiding over Agliotti’s application to have the murder charge thrown out made a detailed comparison of the evidence in the case with the Corleone family in "The Godfather."
A 15-year-old girl who was allegedly gang raped on school grounds was charged with having underage sex. The girl, who was reported to have been drugged with a spiked drink, was charged with statutory rape along with her alleged rapists, aged 14 and 16. The incident took place at a high school east of Johannesburg in front of other students who took videos on their cell phones. Prosecutors said they were dropping the original rape charges because of a lack of evidence, a move that sparked questions over the handling of the case.
President Jacob Zuma traveled to Zimbabwe to try and ease tensions between President Robert Mugabe and rival turned power-sharing partner Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Both parties agreed to resume talks following a two-month breakdown in communication. Meanwhile, former president Thabo Mbeki visited the Ivory Coast on an African Union mission to try and diffuse a political crisis after elections in which two rivals both laid claim to the presidency. However Mbeki left without making progress on a settlement.
Money: Standard Bank Group Ltd., Africa’s largest lender by assets, warned that its 2010 earnings may drop by up to 12 percent due to slow economic recovery from the recession and the cost of recent job cuts. The company, which is 20 percent owned by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, is eliminating nearly 2,000 permanent and contract jobs in Johannesburg and London in an effort to reduce costs.
Pioneer Food Group, South Africa’s third-largest food producer, submitted a firm intention to offer $120 million for KWV, the wine and brandy maker, after reports that two other firms were considering offering counter bids. Pioneer Foods, which makes bread and breakfast cereal, was hastened by the threat of rival bids from dairy foods maker Clover and UK-based spirits maker Halewood International.
South Africa's FirstRand group, the country’s second-largest bank, was appointed by Zambia’s central bank to run a key financial institution facing collapse due to poor management. FirstRand staff will work at branches of Zambia’s Finance Bank, a move intended to ensure the stability of the Zambian banking sector.
Elsewhere: South Africa’s summer school break has begun and the country is heading into holiday shutdown mode until early January. However in December there is also a yearly spike in crime, and those still doing their Christmas shopping have been advised that Monday morning may be the worst time to head to the mall. According to a new report on violent crime at shopping centers, criminal gangs prefer to hit malls early Monday mornings, when security may be caught off guard.
Racist comments by Afrikaans pop singer Steve Hofmeyr and author Annelie Botes have drawn widespread condemnation. Hofmeyr, in response to the brutal murder of a white farmer and his family, wrote a diatribe on Facebook in which he said that “blacks feel justified and ‘entitled’ in everything," Meanwhile Botes lost a South African Literary Award over comments she made in which she said that she doesn’t like black people.
U.S. diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks haven’t spared some of South Africa’s top leaders. Nelson Mandela was among the subjects, with revelations that his African National Congress party had shot down his desire to meet then-British prime minister Margaret Thatcher soon after his release from prison in 1990. Another cable assessed Jacob Zuma’s rise to presidency as an “astonishing achievement,” and criticized spending on luxury vehicles by cabinet ministers. And following a 2007 meeting with Julius Malema, the firebrand ANC youth leader, a cable said that while the youth league backed Zuma “100 percent,” Malema could not explain why.