‘Anni’s life cost only R16 000’

2010-12-07 14:45

It cost Shrien Dewani a mere R16 000 to have his new bride Anni murdered by a pair of South African thugs, the Cape High Court has heard.

This emerged as one of his accomplices, Cape Town shuttle-driver Zola Tongo (31) was jailed for an effective 18 years for his role in the plot.

In terms of a plea agreement, Tongo was convicted of kidnapping, murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances and obstructing the administration of justice.

In a statement handed in as part of the agreement, he revealed how he and Shrien had participated in a fake hijacking.

“The agreement was that after the ‘hijacking’ of the vehicle, both Shrien Dewani and I would be ejected from the vehicle unharmed, after which the deceased would be kidnapped and robbed, before she was murdered,” he said.

Speaking to reporters on the court steps afterwards, an emotional Vinod Hindocha, Anni’s father, expressed his gratitude to South Africans.

“I’d like to say thank you to the South African people for their support and thank you for the whole world for the condolence messages to our family,” said Hindocha, who had flown from Sweden for the hearing.

“And I hope... no, I have nothing more to say. Thank you all. Thank you.”

No extradition disclosure
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) would not say if it would now seek Shrien’s extradition from the UK, where he lives, but said the “possibility exists”.

“That process, by its very nature, is investigative. We won’t be commenting on that process because we don’t want to jeopardise [it],” said spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga.

In the brief hearing, Western Cape Director of Public Prosecutions Rodney de Kock told Judge President John Hlophe the alleged hijacking was “part of a plan of subterfuge”.

Shrien and Tongo had arranged it “to conceal the true facts, to wit: that the deceased was murdered at the instance of her husband”, he said.

In a formal admission, handed in to court as part of the agreement, Tongo said he freelanced as a shuttle operator from Cape Town International Airport.

On November 12, he was waiting for fares at the airport when Shrien asked him to take him and Anni to the Cape Grace.

“After we arrived at the hotel, Shrien Dewani approached me alone and asked me if I knew anyone that could ‘have a client of his taken off the scene’.

“After some discussion with him, I understood that he wanted someone, a woman, killed.

“He said he was willing to pay an amount of R15 000. Shrien Dewani said he had US dollars and could pay in US dollars.”

Tongo said later that day he spoke to a friend about arranging a hitman.

The friend put him in touch with the other two men who have been arrested in the case, Xolile Mnguni (23) and Mziwamadoda Qwabe (25).

The ‘hit’
They met in Tongo’s vehicle in Khayelitsha on the afternoon of November 13 to plan the fake hijacking.

“We agreed that Shrien Dewani and I would be ejected from the vehicle and that the female occupant had to be killed,” he said.

He picked up Shrien and Anni at the hotel that night and took them to some “city sights”, before going to the intersection in Gugulethu where the hitmen were supposed to be.

They were not there, so he continued in the direction of Somerset West where the Dewanis had supper.

“Prior to entering the restaurant, Shrien Dewani asked me what was happening and said he wanted the job done that night,” Tongo said.

While the Dewanis were having supper, Qwabe called Tongo and confirmed they would be at the agreed location.

Tongo said at one point while he was driving around with the couple that evening, he sent a text message to Shrien not to forget about the money. Shrien replied by sms that the money was in an envelope behind the front passenger seat.

On the way back from Somerset West, the hitmen were waiting as arranged at the intersection of NY112 and NY108 streets in Gugulethu.

They carried out the fake hijacking and drove for a short distance before ordering Tongo out of the vehicle.

“They then drove off with Shrien Dewani and the deceased still in the vehicle,” Tongo said.

“I knew that [the hitmen] would not harm Shrien Dewani and that he would be dropped off at some further point.

I also knew that the deceased would be kidnapped, robbed and murdered ... after Shrien Dewani had been ejected from the vehicle in accordance with the plan.”

Jail sentence
Tongo, who has agreed to testify in the court cases of all other accused in the matter, said he met Shrien four days later and received R1 000 “as payment for my role in orchestrating the murder”.

He was sentenced to five years for kidnapping, 15 for robbery with aggravating circumstances, 25 for murder and five for obstructing justice.

Because five years of the murder sentence were suspended, and because some of the sentences will run concurrently, he will serve and effective 18 years.

Tongo stood with his face hidden in his shirt before proceedings got under way, as a scrum of photographers jostled in front of him.

His attorney, William da Grass, told the judge that Tongo was the father of five minor children, the youngest only four months old.

He had been “in the throes of financial difficulty” when Shrien approached him with the murder proposal.

“It’s our submission my lord that he was manipulated into becoming part of the scheme,” Da Grass said.

Mnguni and Qwabe are to appear in the Wynberg Regional Court again on February 25 next year. They face three charges – murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping.

Shrien claimed after the incident that the hijackers forced him out of the vehicle. Anni’s body was found in the abandoned vehicle the next day.

She had been shot.

Shrien Dewani has denied the claims through his publicist, Max Clifford.

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