Dewani: Witness’s memory, Hindu ceremony in question

Lawyers for Shrien Dewani on Thursday cast doubt on the memory of a hotel receptionist who played a role in the murder of the British businessman’s wife Anni.

Monde Mbolombo (35) testified in the high court in the Western Cape on Thursday on his role in a plot allegedly concocted by Dewani in 2010.

The State’s 14th witness admitted lying about certain details in his previous statements and testimony, but said he was coming clean in Dewani’s trial because he could no longer hide. He volunteered a third statement in September this year after the prosecution showed surveillance footage of him at the Protea Hotel he worked at before he was fired.

Dewani is on trial for the murder of his wife during their honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010. He has pleaded not guilty to the five counts against him, maintaining that the couple were the victims of a hijacking on November 13 2010.

Anni’s body was found in Tongo’s abandoned shuttle taxi in Khayelitsha the following day. The State alleges Dewani paid R15 000 to arrange the hijacking and murder.

Mbolombo granted immunity
Tongo is serving an 18-year jail term and Mziwamadoda Qwabe, 25 years. Xolile Mngeni was serving life in jail for firing the shot that killed Anni, but died in prison from a brain tumour on October 18.

At the conclusion of Mngeni’s trial in 2012, Mbolombo was granted immunity from prosecution on two charges   conspiracy to commit murder and illegal possession of ammunition.

He faced five charges in Dewani’s trial and was warned to answer truthfully.

During cross-examination, Francois van Zyl, for Dewani, said it was difficult to believe Mbolombo could still remember details about phone calls he made at the hotel.

“Is the truth not that you saw the CCTV footage of what took place?” Mbolombo replied that he only saw the footage once in September and while it reminded him of what happened, he still knew what happened.

He was asked how it came about that Mbolombo was to receive a R5 000 commission for his role in the crime.

Mbolombo said he heard Tongo mentioning to Qwabe that they would receive R15 000 for the hit and he also wanted something for his efforts.

“As we talked about it, it was R5000, but I didn’t know from who I was going to get it.” Earlier in the day, Mbolombo said there were likely to be people “throwing stones” at him for not appearing truthful.

“To some people, it is nice, it is smooth-sailing. They have got money and it is easy for them to go to other people and bribe someone, and then come to court and tell people that we are telling lies,” he said.

His cross-examination would resume on Friday.

Dewani didn’t attend ceremony
The court also heard that Dewani did not attend a Hindu ceremony to bless Anni’s body before it was returned to the United Kingdom.

Prosecutor Adrian Mopp asked captain Vinesh Lutchman, who was appointed the family’s liaison officer, what explanation the British businessman gave him for not attending the ceremony on November 16 2010.

“His explanation was that he was going to the mall to do shopping,” Lutchman said.

Lutchman was the State’s 13th witness and helped the family after Anni was killed in Gugulethu, Cape Town.

Lutchman told Mopp that Dewani never mentioned a helicopter trip in all the time they spent together, nor that there was R15 000 in Anni’s handbag which was stolen the night of her murder.

He said he would have told his superior about the large amount of money and that it would have changed the angle of their investigation to focus on the hijacking having been arranged.

The Hawks took over the investigation after her body was found.

Lutchman accompanied Dewani to the morgue on November 15 to identify her body.

The next morning he arrived at the hotel to take both fathers, Prakash Dewani and Vinod Hindocha, to a funeral parlour to view the body. A Hindu ceremony was performed at the mortuary. – Sapa

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