Dewani trial hits technical hitches

2012-08-16 22:18

Cape Town - Anni Dewani's murder trial had to be adjourned on Wednesday when technical gremlins infiltrated the courtroom in the Western Cape High Court.

The trial of Xolile Mngeni was to have continued after lunch at 14:00, when the defence would have shown a piece of closed-circuit television footage on a big screen.

The footage formed part of cross-examination of a State witness by defence lawyer Matthews Dayimani.

The trial was, however, delayed for an hour because the orderlies could not find the right cable to connect the TV to the DVD player.

When the court was finally in session, Judge Robert Henney was told the reason for the delay. He said it was unacceptable that the footage would now have to be shown on Monday.

Another glitch

"If we're going to go on in this space, we must seriously consider sitting on Fridays as well."

Dayimani began cross-examining the first witness on the stand, but it was not long before another technical hitch came to the fore.

While the witness was speaking, the stenographer was seen whispering to Henney's registrar. The witness was then stopped by the judge, who informed him that the recording machine was not working.

The stenographer informed the court that a technician would have to be called, and this could take 15 minutes.

Henney postponed the trial until Monday.

Anni Dewani was shot in an apparent hijacking while on honeymoon with her husband Shrien in Cape Town in November 2010.

The witness alleged on Wednesday that he was the middle-man in a plot by Shrien to have his wife killed.

The witness, a hotel worker, was asked by contracted shuttle driver Zola Tongo on 12 November 2010, whether he knew of a hitman, for a job from a foreign man.


He had said he did not know anyone, but could put him in contact with a former co-worker he named as "Abongile", who had knowledge of these things.

The witness confessed to putting the two in contact and to acting as a go-between.

On Thursday, he revealed that "Abongile" was in fact Mziwamadoda Qwabe.

Last week, Qwabe was sentenced to in effect 25 years for his role in the plot, also in a plea agreement.

Tongo has already been jailed for 18 years as part of a plea bargain.

State prosecutor Shareen Riley asked the witness if he knew the man sitting in the bench, pointing to Mngeni.

The man replied: "No, I don't."

Mngeni has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, and the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

The defence had accused the witness of lying with regards to replies he made about the first statement that he made to police.

Withhold information

In his first statement to investigator Lieutenant Colonel Mike Barkhuizen at the Bellville police station, he told the court he withheld information about conversations between the accused.

Dayimani suggested that the witness had also testified another version: that he swore in his statement he did not know about any conversations.

Henney noted there was a big difference between the two. To withhold information was not necessarily lying. To give false information, on the other hand, was lying.

The witness also said that after signing his statement, he was kept in a police cell for the weekend.

During that time, Barkhuizen came back to him to clarify a few details.

It was then that the witness suggested, of his own accord, that he would turn State witness. He filled in a witness form, stating what he knew.

His identity was being withheld because of a court order, to prevent potential intimidation or harm.