Tongo admits to 'mistakes'

2014-10-29 19:08
(File: Die Burger)

(File: Die Burger)

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Cape Town - Convicted shuttle taxi driver Zola Tongo admitted on Wednesday to a few mistakes in relaying how honeymooner Anni Hindochi's murder came about in 2010.

Tongo, 34, made these concessions while being cross-examined by Shrien Dewani's lawyer, Francois van Zyl, in the Western Cape High Court.

The first mistake related to when Dewani allegedly approached him with the proposal to kill his wife, when Tongo dropped the Dewanis off at the Cape Grace Hotel on 13 November 2010.

Dewani is on trial for the murder of Anni.

Tongo said he thought Dewani's "business proposal" related to tours.

He only realised when Dewani returned from the hotel to speak with him inside the car that the proposal entailed murder.

Van Zyl referred to the statement Tongo made to police on 26 November 2010, in which he said Dewani went into great detail about the proposal before going to check in at the hotel.

However, it seemed from Tongo's testimony in court that all Dewani told him before entering into the hotel was that he had a job.

He asked Tongo to explain the differences.

Tongo replied that it was a mistake and that Dewani did not go into detail about the job he had before checking in.

The lawyer asked why he would tell police that is what happened.

"Anyone can make a mistake," Tongo said, pointing out that the lawyer had also made a mistake earlier when getting his initials wrong.

The public gallery laughed. Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso asked him to stick to answering the question.

"That was a mistake sir," Tongo said.

Early parole

Earlier Van Zyl tried to suggest that Tongo may have entered a plea bargain to qualify for earlier parole. He asked Tongo about the plea bargain he entered into onto 7 December 2010.

"The offences listed in the agreement carry a minimum sentence of life imprisonment. Was that explained to you?" Van Zyl asked.

Tongo said yes.

In the agreement, Tongo argued why the minimum sentence should not apply, including that he co-operated with police and was willing to testify in future regarding the conspiracy to kill Anni.

"If you were sentenced to life imprisonment sir, are you aware that you would only be eligible for parole after 25 years?" the lawyer asked.

Tongo said he understood the conditions of the agreement that his attorney explained to him.

Van Zyl said part of the plea bargain was that he would instead be eligible for parole after nine years, half of his 18-year jail term, if he behaved well.

"If you should testify for the State, and you should, as a proposition, deviate from the statements that you've made, may that impact on your parole do you think?"

Tongo said it would not.

"If you should not give evidence in light with the statements that you've made, you are seriously telling the court that that would not influence when you would be released on parole?"

Tongo replied that everything depended on his behaviour while in custody in prison.

Dewani is accused of the murder of his wife during their honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, conspiracy to commit these crimes and defeating the ends of justice.

Dewani claims the couple were hijacked as Tongo was driving them through Gugulethu in his minibus on Saturday, 13 November 2010. He was released unharmed and Anni driven away. She was found shot dead in the abandoned minibus in Khayelitsha the next morning.

The State alleges he conspired with others to stage the hijacking in return for R15 000.

Hotel receptionist Monde Mbolombo was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying against his accomplices.

Xolile Mngeni was serving life in jail for firing the shot that killed Anni, but died in prison from a brain tumour two weeks ago. Mziwamadoda Qwabe is serving a 25-year jail term.

‘Same lady’

Van Zyl pointed out that in his statement Tongo claimed that when he got to the Cape Grace Hotel on the evening of 13 November 2010, he picked up Dewani and the "same lady" who was with him at the airport a day earlier.

Tongo testified on Tuesday that he initially thought Anni was two people because her appearance had changed so dramatically in those two days, from casual to "beautiful".

Van Zyl wanted to know why he said the "same lady" if he had thought they were two different people.

"I can see this is written and I signed it but I never said the same lady," Tongo replied.

He said the police made a mistake.

Van Zyl said Lieutenant Colonel Mike Barkhuizen took the statement, was an experienced officer, and would have known how important a case like this was.

Tongo said he could not answer on Barkhuizen's behalf.

"Why sir are you running away from the fact that it was Mr Dewani's wife that was in your car and according to your evidence, was the person who needed to be killed?"

Tongo maintained he did not know it was Dewani's wife who needed to be killed.

Van Zyl asked him why he never mentioned in his statement that Dewani said he would pay him R5 000 once the job was done.

"I forgot to mention that," Tongo said.

His cross-examination resumes on Thursday.

Read more on:    zola tongo  |  anni hindocha  |  shrien dewani  |  cape town  |  dewani trial

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