Anger of murdered Anni Dewani's father as her killer is granted parole

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Shrien and Annie Dewani were the picture-perfect couple until her murder in 2010. (PHOTO: Facebook/Just another murder)
Shrien and Annie Dewani were the picture-perfect couple until her murder in 2010. (PHOTO: Facebook/Just another murder)

The phone call made his skin crawl. The man who’d killed his beloved Anni was being considered for parole and wanted to meet as part of the rehabilitation process.

Ashok Hindocha made his way from his home in Sweden to South Africa to meet with her killer, but he was so dejected by the process he left before the department of correctional services even made their decision.

“I feel like I flew all the way for nothing because their minds were already made up to give him parole,” he tells YOU.

Businessman Ashok (71) is talking to us from his office in Mariestad, Sweden. The country is slowly waking from the grip of winter but even though spring has arrived life remains cold and bleak for the Hindochas. They were plunged into permanent darkness the day Anni (28) was murdered in Cape Town in November 2010.

Dubbed the honeymoon murder, the case made headlines the world over. Anni’s husband, Shrien Dewani, was accused of hiring hitmen to kill her while they were on holiday from the UK as newlyweds.

Shrien claimed they were hijacked on their way back to the Mother City after dinner in the Strand and taken to Gugulethu, where Anni was shot in the neck. It was later alleged he orchestrated the killing.

The businessman was arrested along with hitmen Xolile Mngeni and shuttle driver Zola Tongo, who said he hired the two men on Shrien’s behalf.

Shrien’s case was eventually thrown out of court after Judge Jeanette Traverso said the evidence presented by the prosecution fell “far below the threshold” of what a reasonable court could convict on. 

Anni Dewani, Shrien Dewani, crime, murder, honeymo
Anni's dad, Ashok Hindocha has written a book about her life. (PHOTO: Facebook/Memory of Anni Hindocha aka Dewani)

Mngeni, Qwabe and Tongo were all convicted of murder. Mngeni was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 and died two years later of a brain tumour. Qwabe is serving a 25-year sentence behind bars. Tongo, who has served more than half of his 18-year sentence, was recently granted parole and will be released in June.

He applied for parole two years ago, but his application failed after fierce opposition from the Hindocha family. This time, the family’s pleas fell on deaf ears.

“To us, it felt like what we said to them wasn’t going to influence anything – they were speaking to us to tick their boxes,” Ashok says.

“If I knew they were going to give him parole, I would have saved myself a 22 000km journey.”

Anni Dewani, Shrien Dewani, crime, murder, honeymo
Shrien Dewani was cleared of all charges against him. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

READ MORE | Anni's family sad after Dewani freed

Meeting Tongo brought back painful memories. Ashok’s world fell apart at the seams when Anni died, and the devastated dad has been unable to move on because he feels the family still don’t know all the details of that terrible day.

Though Tongo pleaded guilty to kidnapping, robbery, murder and the obstruction of justice, Ashok feels there’s more to the story than what came out in court. He had hoped the family would get the closure they need when they met him recently, but this wasn’t the case.

“I asked Tongo, ‘you said you regret your actions and take full responsibility, so why do you want to go out on parole then instead of serving the full 18 years?’ He told me, ‘I didn’t ask for this [parole]’. To us it was very annoying that despite him saying he didn’t ask for parole, they were going to give it to him anyway.”

When Ashok asked the department of correctional service’s parole board why Tongo was being considered for release, “they told us he had ticked all the boxes”.

“They said he had gone through an anger management programme and all these other programmes,” he says.

“I asked them, ‘Do you have a programme for greed?’ This guy was earning R30 000 a month and he did such a heinous murder for R15 000, so what is he going to do now?

“He wasn’t drunk or angry when he was offered the money, so what’s the point of ticking those boxes and granting him parole? He was sober when he did this, he could have said no and walked away, and we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Ashok says he’s disappointed by the justice system. “It sends a very bad message that the system works for criminals. I mean the guy is not even asking for parole and they’re granting him parole,” he says.

Anni Dewani, Shrien Dewani, crime, murder, honeymo
Zola Tongo will be out on parole from 21 June 2022 after serving 11 years of his 18-year sentence for his role in the murder of Anni Dewani. (PHOTO: ENCA)

READ MORE | Dewani surfed gay fetish dating site the day after Anni was found

The experience has left the family with a bad taste. “We don’t feel good about South Africa at the moment,” Ashok says. Though he feels the police did a fantastic job bringing the killers to book, “all the good work they did just went down the drain”, he says.

“We had such great support from the people of South Africa, but the justice system doesn’t mirror the people, and I say that from my heart.”

In the decade since Anni’s death, Ashok’s brother, Vinod, has been a pillar of support in their quest for justice.

When Shrien was charged with Anni’s murder, he claimed he had post-traumatic stress and flew back to England where he sought medical treatment.

He was later extradited to SA and Ashok and Vinod were at court throughout the extradition hearing. And when he was eventually handed over to SA authorities to stand trial, the brothers were at every court appearance. Nilam, Ashok’s wife, was also at the court case, as was the couple’s older daughter, Ami Denborg.

After Shrien was freed by the court, Ami was distraught. “I lost my sister and all I want to know is what happened to her,” she said. “I will never find out the truth and I don’t know how to deal with it.”

Xolile Mngeni, the second hitman, died in 2014 after battling a brain tumour. (PHOTO: Gallo Images)

Neither Nilam or Ami were with Ashok when he met Tongo but Vinod was by his brother’s side again and also feels his parole is a travesty. “This time the parole board got it wrong. They are sending a very wrong message that says, ‘Do the crime, it’s okay, you don’t need to do the time’,” he says.

Ashok hopes the parole board won’t regret their decision to let Tongo out. “My last words to them were, ‘I hope I don’t see another father sitting in this chair ever again.”

He says the family have had no contact with Shrien in more than 10 years. “We haven’t seen them since the funeral.” He heard Shrien had married a Brazilian man but doesn’t know any more than that.

Ashok says he’s heard rumours Qwabe could be up for parole soon, but he won’t be flying back for his parole hearing because there’s no point, he says. “They’re going to do whatever they’re going to do, and I don’t want to be a part of it.”

Anni Dewani, Shrien Dewani, crime, murder, honeymo
Mziwamdoda Qwabe, one of the hitmen, remains behind bars, though Ashok Hindocha says he's heard rumours he might be up for parole soon. (PHOTO: Reuters)

• According to the department of correctional services, inmates in South Africa do not apply for parole. They become eligible for parole consideration after serving the minimum required time, which is usually half their sentence. Tongo met requirements for qualifying for parole, including going on anger management courses and other programmes to reintegrate him back into society, the department says.

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