Published on 1/26/2011
In Gugulethu, South Africa, life can be cheap, and death can be bought quickly. In three hours an interested party can find and hire a hit man. To find a hit man ready, able, and, most importantly, willing to kill a stranger, one need only ask around, as the newspaper Cape Argus demonstrated in early winter of 2010. In one day's research, the paper found three assassins willing to kill for fees ranging between $700 and $2,000.
Gugulethu is the largest and most violent of South Africa's 65 townships. Created — though as often as not left undeveloped—in the 19th
century for the country's non-white populations, they have in recent years become urban killing fields. In Gugulethu alone there has been an average of one murder every two and a half days for the past five years. Despite efforts by the South African government and citizens, the townships remain one of the starkest reminders of South Africa's brutal apartheid history. Though the vast majority of township residents are struggling to make their lives better, as witnessed by the designer boutiques appearing recently there, a dense, prevailing poverty remains. In such an atmosphere, there is always someone to seize any opportunity that presents itself.
For many, townships such as Gugulethu represent the real South Africa, the nation as it exists beneath the booming, polished tourism industry. For Shrien and Anni Dewani, newlyweds in the middle of long honeymoon at some of South Africa's most luxurious resorts and hotels, life as it was lived in the townships was, according to some accounts, what the couple set out to locate on the evening of November 13, 2010. The Dewanis went looking for an unchaperoned South Africa. They found what they were looking for.
"They told me that they wouldn't hurt her," lamented Shrien Dewani in the days after he and his new bride ventured into Gugulethu. That assurance was a lie; like so many of the statements and assertions surrounding the murder of young Anni Dewani. The killers were quickly found, but, according to the testimony of one of their accomplices, Anni Dewani's fate was much more perverse than any random act of violence.