Anni Dewani with husband Shrien Dewani
A SOUTH African court trying a man for the murder of honeymooner Anni Dewani - allegedly on the orders of her new British husband - on Wednesday (August 15) heard evidence from a witness who said he was asked to find a hitman for a foreigner.
The prosecution’s first witness told the court how he acted as a middle man after the couple’s driver Zola Tongo asked if he knew of a hired assassin for a foreigner who wanted a “lady to be killed”.
“He (Tongo) called me aside, he wanted to speak to me. I went to him and then he asked do I know anybody who is a hitman,” he told the first day of accused Xolile Mngeni’s murder trial.
“He said there was a gentleman who was ordering this murder to be done,” said the witness, who the court ruled should not be identified.
“He said this gentleman is not from here,” he added.
Mngeni denied charges of murder, kidnapping, robbery and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition at the Cape High Court after being cleared as fit to stand trial last week despite his brain tumour.
Mngeni was named by a co-accused, who pleaded guilty last week to Dewani’s murder, as the gunman in the 2010 killing of the 28-year-old in a plea bargain that implicated her husband Shrien Dewani.
The witness said he had introduced the driver Zola Tongo, who had met the couple at the airport, by telephone to another man on the Friday before Anni’s death.
“I told him that there’s a gentleman called Zola that is looking for a hitman,” he said.
He was in touch with both men on the Saturday and passed on information using his work phone at a local hotel, including that the trio were leaving a restaurant and were on the way to a township where the car was hijacked.
The man visited his home on the Sunday morning that Anni’s body was discovered in the abandoned car on November 14.
He told him that it was “all over the news”, and to tell the driver whose phone was off that he had received less money than what was promised to him.
“He said to me I must not ask too many questions, what needed to be done is done,” he told the court, saying he understood this to mean that “the murder has been committed”.
Two men have already been jailed after pleading guilty but Mngeni answered not guilty pleas to five charges after entering the court with a walking frame and hiding his face.
Last week, his co-accused Mziwamadoda Qwabe said Mngeni had fired a single fatal shot from the front passenger seat. He claimed the pair were recruited by the couple’s driver to carry out the paid hit allegedly on Dewani’s orders.
Prosecutors are still hoping to put Dewani in the dock in Cape Town after his extradition process was temporarily halted earlier this year, said prosecuting authority spokesman Eric Ntabazalila.
“Our hope was to get all three of them on the stand,” he said.
“We are hopeful that in the end he will come to South Africa and answer to the allegations put to him.”
The state is hoping that the trial will be wrapped up in around four weeks, said Ntabazalila.
Qwabe and the driver Zola Tongo will testify as state witnesses after both entered plea bargains that accused Shrien Dewani of orchestrating his Swedish wife’s death as a botched hijacking.
Qwabe was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was the second accused to incriminate Dewani in the killing, after the driver entered his own plea in 2010 and is serving 18 years in prison.
Britain approved Dewani’s extradition but the London High Court shelved the process in March, citing health grounds with his lawyers saying he suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Dewani has denied any involvement in the contract killing.
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