Dewani driver ‘got cold feet’

2011-02-05 16:24

Zola Tongo, the taxi driver jailed for his role in the murder of British honeymoon bride Anni Dewani, “got cold feet” and tried to pull out at the last moment, according to a fellow cab driver who he in turn tried to hire.

The man, who operates as a taxi driver out of Cape Town International Airport, said Tongo contacted him late on the afternoon of the killing and asked if he was available to pick up “a foreign couple” from the plush Cape Grace Hotel – where the Dewanis were staying – and take them on a tour.

But the driver, who has asked not to be named as he fears for his safety, turned down the job as he had a prior commitment.

He said the police, who subsequently took a statement from him, said his decision may have saved his life.

“Thank God I did not take the job. The police told me that they might have killed me too if I was there, so there would be no witnesses. I was very shocked at what they told me,” the taxi driver said.

He was tracked down by police, ­using phone numbers in Tongo’s mobile phone memory, about two weeks after the killing.

“I know Zola from the airport, but I was very surprised when he phoned me because he’s never offered me work before,” he said.

“I still get the shivers when I think that I would have taken the job if I did not already have another tour booked. I have known Zola for years and I was shocked when I heard what he’d done. He just did not seem the type.”

This week City Press also tracked down a young woman who says she saw two men fleeing the scene of the crime after they abandoned the ­“hijacked” taxi in Litha Park, Khayelitsha, at about 1am on December 14, with Anni Dewani’s body inside.

The woman, who asked not to be named as she lives in the same area as the two men charged with the murder and fears for her safety, said she had been mugged and robbed of her mobile phone earlier that evening and was trying to trace the thieves with the help of two friends.

She noticed the taxi pull up and stop, and then the door opened and two men got out and ran away – but one then turned and got back into the vehicle, according to the alleged eye witness.

“He jumped in and then came out holding an envelope and they both ran down the road,” she said.

In a statement that formed part of his plea and sentencing before being jailed for 18 years for his role in the murder, Tongo said that Shrien ­Dewani, the husband of the murdered woman, had told him that the hitmen’s payment had been left in an envelope behind the seat of the taxi.

Dewani is now fighting attempts in the UK to extradite him to South Africa to face trial for murder.

Earlier this week Mziwamadoda Qwabe (25), one of the men charged with the murder, appeared in court in Cape Town to apply for bail.

A statement by the investigating ­officer provides insight into how the police are painstakingly, piece-by-piece, gathering corroborating evidence in the case against Qwabe, his co-accused Xolile Mngeni – and ­Shrien ­Dewani.

Qwabe – the father of three very young children by three different mothers – said he had a witness who would provide him with an alibi for the night of the murder.

He said he planned to plead not guilty to all five charges he faced, ­including murder, and refused to ­answer most questions posed by the prosecutor as “they go to the merit of the case”.

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