S.Africa's top cop retracts calling Dewani a "monkey"

18th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

South Africa's police chief has retracted his controversial remark calling British honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani "a monkey", the country's public protector said Monday.

Outspoken police commissioner Bheki Cele caused a furore in December when he called the British businessman a monkey who had come to South Africa to kill his newlywed bride Anni, 28, in a fake hijacking.

"The comment was however made with no intent to harm or offend anyone," Cele said, adding that he believed the police had to move on and focus on safety.

"I therefore wish to retract the use of the word," he said in a statement to the protector, South Africa's government watchdog.

South African prosecutors are fighting to extradite Dewani from Britain to be arraigned alongside two South Africans accused in the November shooting death of his wife.

Dewani denies any involvement in the killing.

Anni Dewani's body was found in the car that the couple had been travelling in during the purported hijacking.

Their driver Zola Tongo -- a suspect turned state witness -- alleged that Dewani masterminded the killing and claimed he was paid 1,500 rand ($218, 152 euros) for his role.

Tongo pleaded guilty in December to his part in the ordeal, receiving an 18-year sentence.

"A monkey came all the way from London to have his wife murdered here. Shrien thought we South Africans were stupid when he came all the way to kill his wife in our country. He lied to himself," Cele was quoted as saying in December in local media.

A complaint to the public protector said that the police chief's comments were improper, unlawful and could negatively affect the extradiction process.

In his statement dated April 5, Cele said that his comments had drawn media attention and debate about "its derogatory nature and possible impact on a pending trial" which had not been his wish.

© 2011 AFP

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