Dewani witness: 'I was a fool, I was misled'

Driver Zola Tongo is the state's 12th witness in the trial of Shrien Dewani, in which the UK businessman is accused of conspiring to murder his wife in 2010. (Reuters)

Driver Zola Tongo is the state's 12th witness in the trial of Shrien Dewani, in which the UK businessman is accused of conspiring to murder his wife in 2010. (Reuters)

Prosecutor Shareen Riley led her 12th witness, Zola Tongo, through the telephonic communication he had with Dewani and their movements on November 13 2010.

Tongo (34) transported the British couple around Cape Town while they were on their honeymoon. He is serving an 18-year jail term for his role in Anni’s murder in Gugulethu that night. Dewani is accused of Anni’s murder. 

He has pleaded not guilty to the five counts against him, maintaining that the couple were the victims of a hijacking. The state alleges he conspired with others to stage the hijacking in return for R15 000. Anni’s body was found in the abandoned shuttle taxi in Khayelitsha the following day.

Xolile Mngeni was serving life in jail for firing the shot that killed Anni, but died in prison from a brain tumour two weeks ago.
Mziwamadoda Qwabe is serving a 25-year jail term.

Hotel receptionist Monde Mbolombo was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying against his accomplices.

Phone records
Riley went through phone records for Tongo’s cellphone number. His calls and text messages triggered both a cellphone tower in Strand West and nearby Mosterts Bay. Tongo called Mbolombo on the hotel’s landline on November 13 2010. He called Qwabe at 9.36pm the same day. 

Tongo said he did not recognise the number, but remembered phoning Qwabe that night. Twenty minutes later, Dewani phoned him and the call lasted 93 seconds.

A few minutes later, Tongo phoned Qwabe three times, Qwabe briefly phoned him back, and then Tongo spoke to Qwabe for 102 seconds at 9.59pm. At 10.03pm, there was a text message to Dewani.

Tongo testified on Tuesday that he had a conversation with Dewani. Dewani and his wife were dining at the Surfside restaurant in Strand and Tongo was outside. The court was shown surveillance footage showing the entrance of the restaurant. 

On the video, at 9.34pm, the couple enter a mall where the restaurant is situated. Dewani walks with his hands in the pockets of his suit next to Tongo, while Anni lags behind, her arms folded across her chest. Another camera inside the mall shows Tongo leading the couple to the restaurant and then walking out by himself at 9.35pm. 

He is seen on the inside and outside cameras chatting on his phone.

Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso asked that the correct time be placed on record as there was a time lag in the footage. “I am told that it might be vitally important,” she said. Dewani was seen outside the restaurant, making a call at 9.56pm. 

Tongo confirmed the pair had been speaking on the phone. The couple leave the restaurant at 10.25pm. Riley said it was not in dispute that Dewani received a text message from Tongo asking about money. 

“Do you remember if there was any discussions regarding money?” Tongo said his accomplices wanted to know where their hit money would be. He said Dewani told him he would put the money in the pouch behind the front seat of Tongo’s minibus. He said this conversation took place over the phone.

The court was then shown footage from earlier that evening, when Tongo picked the couple up at their hotel to take them out, at 7.54pm. Tongo’s minibus is seen arriving at the hotel and parking, as he had testified. Dewani and his wife stood in the foyer while Tongo reversed out of his parking and parked further away. 

“I wanted to get rid of the dirt or rubbish that was in the motor vehicle. I was trying to throw away the dirty stuff and also set the child lock in my vehicle,” he said. The couple waited in the foyer, taking photos and posing for a photo. Anni seemed happy and smiled while a breeze whipped up the shawl around her shoulders.

Dewani watched the footage from the dock and wiped away a few tears. Another camera shows them walking outside to Tongo’s vehicle.

He opens the rear left passenger door for the couple and they drive away shortly afterwards. Tongo handed himself to police on November 20 2010 and a written statement was taken down at the Bellville South police station. 

Riley asked why he handed himself in. “Because what I did was wrong. Secondly, I was a fool. Thirdly, I was misled.” 

Dewani shook his head at Tongo’s words. – Sapa

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