For the mother of taxi driver Zola Tongo, serving 18 years in jail for his part in the killing of Swedish bride Anni Dewani, the extradition battle being waged by the man accused of luring her son into a murder plot is a low priority.
Finding the money for transport to visit him in the rural Malmesbury Prison is Liziwe Tongo’s major concern. “Zola is allowed three visits a month and I have been going to see him. He is doing well,” she said.
Asked how she felt about the extradition hearing at which Dewani was scheduled to appear in London, she said she had not been following the story. The hearing was postponed on Thursday to February 8 because Dewani was ill, the City of Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London ruled.
The news will disappoint South African authorities, who are hoping for the extradition of Dewani to be expedited quickly so that he can face trial for his alleged part in the murder of his bride in Gugulethu in November last year.
As Dewani fights his extradition with a battalion of lawyers and public relations agents Liziwe Tongo is battling to come to terms with the fact that her 31-year-old son is now behind bars.
A lowly paid domestic worker who lives in the impoverished community of Mfuleni in Cape Town, Tongo has a hard life. Members of her family said they sometimes took food parcels to her to help her survive.
The baby-faced Zola used to assist his mother with money each month and had not been in trouble with the law before. A father of five, he claimed in his court statement that Dewani had asked him to take part in a fake hijacking and to arrange for the kidnapping and murder of his wife.
His mother was given no warning that her son would be sentenced and jailed last December in a plea and sentencing agreement he signed with the state for his part in the murder.
William da Grass, his lawyer, said that was the way he wanted it because he couldn’t face telling his family he would go to prison. He is likely to qualify for parole after nine to 12 years.
In London queries about Dewani’s no-show in court were dealt with by PR guru Max Clifford’s agency, which has gone to war in the press to try to prove his innocence.
“Yes, that’s right, he is too ill for court, but it is personal to discuss what’s wrong!” wrote spokesperson Denise Palmer-Davies in an email to the Mail & Guardian. The court heard that according to a psychiatrist Dewani had an acute stress disorder and a depressive adjustment disorder.
The extradition case will be formally opened on February 8, when chief magistrate Howard Riddle will decide whether Dewani should attend.