A shuttle taxi driver convicted of murder has explained to the Western Cape High Court how British businessman Shrien Dewani allegedly arranged with him to have someone killed.
Two correctional services officials today flanked Zola Tongo, 34, as he testified in isiXhosa in a deep, confident voice.
Called as the State’s 12th witness in Dewani’s trial, he said he dropped Dewani and his wife Anni off at the Cape Grace Hotel on November 12 2010, and asked R250 for the transfer. He was given R300.
Tongo is serving an 18-year jail sentence for his role in Anni Dewani’s murder.
He gave a business card to Dewani, hoping he might use him as a tour guide.
“While standing behind the car making sure or confirming whether I was getting a job, he said to me he is having a job for me. I must just wait there at the parking.
“Those were good news [sic]. I just decided hunger is over now. I went to park in the parking area, waiting,” said Tongo, through a translator.
Dewani came back alone, less than 10 minutes after checking in.
Tongo said he was told the job would help his business grow and that he would get many referrals.
He explained to Tongo that part of the job involved someone being “removed from out of sight”.
Tongo said he was not involved in such jobs but knew someone who might have the relevant contacts.
Asked whether he knew who must be killed, Tongo said: “He explained to me, my lady, that it is his business, or somebody who is in business with him, and that person will be arriving the following day”.
He knew at that stage it was a woman.
“He explained to me that he is going to pay an amount of R15 000 and when the job is finished I am going to get my payment or my remuneration of R5000, and then we parted ways on that score.”
The pair apparently swapped numbers.
Shrien Dewani stared at Tongo, not breaking his gaze.
Tongo said he phoned his friend Monde Mbolombo, who was a receptionist at the Protea Hotel in Century City.
Mbolombo testified during convicted gunman Xolile Mngeni’s trial and was granted immunity from prosecution. Mngeni was sentenced to life in jail. He died from a brain tumour on October 18.
Tongo said he told Mbolombo about his meeting with Dewani.
“I said to him that that person said that there is somebody who is going to arrive the following day and that this somebody wants this person to be taken out of sight ... Monde made a joke and said: Ey, I wonder whether those are not Islamic people.”
Mbolombo told him he would phone a young man he knew for the job. They left the hotel and Mbolombo explained over the phone there was a job for R15 000.
Tongo told Mbolombo to ask the young man whether it was okay if he was paid in dollars. The young man responded they only wanted payment in rands.
Mbolombo gave him the contact details of the young man, whose nickname was “Spra”. He saved it on his phone as “H” because that was easy to remember.
Tongo phoned Spra later that Friday.
“I just wanted to know from him how things were going. He said to me: ‘Everything is going just fine and he is still going to meet with another person and he is promising’.”
Prosecutor Shareen Riley asked if Tongo spoke with Dewani again that day.
Tongo replied that Dewani checked with him that Friday evening whether hitmen had been found. He told them there were interested parties, but they wanted to be paid in rands.
He took Dewani to exchange the money the next morning.
Dewani had apparently phoned him earlier that morning and asked him to be quick with the pick-up because his wife was showering or washing.
At the shop, he waited in front and chatted with staff while Dewani changed his money at the back.
“While we were still inside the shop, the owner of the shop came out, going to another shop ... The money that was available at the time was not enough. Now by this lady going out, she was going to another shop to go and get some more money. The money arrived and then I asked from them where is my commission,” said Tongo.
He and Dewani returned to the shuttle taxi and spoke further about the job to be done.