Tongo 'took a loss' on Dewani job

2014-11-04 20:25
Shrien Dewani in the Western Cape High Court. (Mike Hutchings, AFP)

Shrien Dewani in the Western Cape High Court. (Mike Hutchings, AFP)

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Cape Town - The methodical cross-examination of taxi driver Zola Tongo in the Shrien Dewani murder trial continued for a fourth day in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday, with Tongo once again conceding a number of mistakes and inaccuracies in his earlier statements and testimony.

He also admitted that he was short-paid for arranging the murder, but did not challenge Dewani on this, and "took it as a loss".

Tongo is currently serving an 18-year sentence for his role in the death of Anni Hindocha in November 2010. Dewani is on trial for allegedly masterminding her murder.

Tongo has now been on the witness stand for six days.

Statement incorrect

Defence advocate Francois van Zyl asked Tongo why he did not fully correct his initial statement to police before signing it, as he had corrected one aspect of it - relating to money he received from Dewani. His attorney was also present.

In what seems to be a recurring phrase, Tongo said he was only remembering details now, and had been stressed at the time of making the statement, which could have taken "days, maybe hours" to take down. He also inferred he hadn't realised such detail would have been required.

For the first time in the trial, audio clips from CCTV footage were played in court - showing middleman Monde Mbolombo speaking on the phone at the hotel where he worked.

In one conversation, Mbolombo mentioned the co-conspirators wanted surgical gloves, and in another, he's heard saying: "That thing we were talking about. It must happen today".

'Five of us'

Mbolombo also mentions that "there are five of us". Tongo insisted that the five included himself, Mbolombo, the hitmen (Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Xolile Mngeni), and Dewani himself, but Van Zyl said he found this improbable, and the audio clip showed Dewani was not present and did not instruct them to complete the job.

Van Zyl also put it to Tongo that Mbolombo had a much bigger role in the conspiracy than Tongo was saying, but Tongo denied this.

Earlier in the trial, the defence team argued that the murder was not arranged by Dewani, but was a botched hijacking and kidnapping, and that the conspirators would seek a ransom.

Further inconsistencies

As Van Zyl continued to meticulously scrutinise Tongo's statements and evidence, further questions and inconsistencies arose - such as:

- Where Tongo's car would be left (he admitted his statement was wrong, it was to be left near a car wash);

- How the money for the job would be split (Tongo denied knowledge of this);

- How he communicated with the hitmen to tell them where the money would be (he couldn't remember);

- Whether Qwabe put a gun to his head and ordered him out of the car (Tongo now says he didn’t);

- Why he didn't tell police the details of his conversation with Dewani at the Cape Grace the day after the murder (he would write statement differently now);

- And why he did not tell police about money he later received from Dewani (he was scared).

At one point, a clearly frustrated Tongo told the court he did not realise he would land up in trouble for forgetting things at the time and remembering them now.

He also said that if he could rewrite the statement now, it would be different to the original one as he can remember more details.

'A loss'

One of the biggest anomalies emerging from the testimony was why Tongo had accepted R1 000 from Dewani, and had not confronted him as to why he'd been short-changed - the agreement was that he would receive R5 000 for the murder. He also said they negotiated a fee of R1 500 for the taxi trip to the winelands.

Tongo said he wrote it off as a loss that he suffered, but Van Zyl stated that Dewani had agreed on a price of R1 000 for Tongo's taxi services, and had handed that over to him, along with a thank-you card - and that is why Tongo hadn't told the police about money he'd received from Dewani.

At the start of the day, Van Zyl indicated he hoped to be able to wrap up his cross-examination of Tongo within the day, but as Tongo continues to admit mistakes and contradictions, he is playing right into the defence's tactic to portray him as an unreliable witness whose key testimony cannot be considered to be credible. Tongo will be back on the witness stand for a seventh day on Wednesday.

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

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