Friday, December 24, 2010

DEWANI : accused said force had been used...but Shreni said they handed over their belongings ?

Chauffeur Zola Robert Tongo has emerged as central to the murder case of British tourist Anni Dewani.

He is to turn State witness and is plea-bargaining with the State.

Tongo, 31, of Bothasig, was behind the wheel when honeymooning couple Anni and Shrien Dewani were hijacked in Gugulethu more than a week ago.

He appeared in the Wynberg Regional Court on Monday with co-accused Mziwamadoda Qwabe, 25, of Khayelitsha. Both face charges of murder, robbery with aggravated circumstances and kidnapping.

A third suspect, Xolile Mngeni, 23, of Khayelitsha, faces the same charges. All three are expected to appear in court together next week.

Police said that as investigations continued they would determine whether more suspects would be arrested.

During yesterday’s court proceedings, it emerged that Tongo wanted to make admissions about the case.

“Should these discussions be successful, it’s envisaged (Tongo) will enter into a plea and sentence agreement with the State,” Director of Public Prosecutions Rodney de Kock told magistrate Jackie Redelinghuys.

Outside the courtroom, National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) communications manager Eric Ntabazalila said Tongo was helping the NPA draft a plea and sentence agreement.

It is understood Tongo may later this week point out the crime scene to investigators.

In court yesterday Tongo, wearing what appeared to be blue overalls, kept his head bowed throughout proceedings, as did Qwabe, who wore a faded blue T-shirt.

Neither made eye contact with anyone in the public gallery.

De Kock said the investigations into the accused’s behaviour were yet to be completed.

Because of a pending identity parade he asked Redelinghuys to issue a court order to forbid publication of photographs of Tongo and Qwabe.

Redelinghuys said he would lift the order as soon as the identity parade was held.

The charge sheet against Tongo, nearly identical to those of the other two accused, said the State alleged he “together with persons known to the State, unlawfully and intentionally killed Anni Dewani with a firearm”.

It said the accused had assaulted Dewani and had used force to steal a Giorgio Armani wristwatch, a white gold and diamond bracelet, a handbag and a Blackberry cellphone from her.

In an interview with a British reporter four days ago and a day before his arrest, Tongo’s attorney, William de Grass had not identified his client, saying Tongo feared people linked to the suspects, possibly members of a syndicate, would come after him.

De Grass said Tongo, who worked for chauffeur company Platinum Escape but who did private chauffeuring on the side in an unregistered car, had met the Dewanis outside the Cape Town International Airport’s domestic arrivals and offered to drive them to the Cape Grace hotel in the city.

The couple allegedly decided to use Tongo’s services for sightseeing the next day. De Grass said Tongo took them to Gugulethu, then Strand and back to Gugulethu as Dewani wanted to see if the night life had picked up.

Yesterday police spokesman Frederick van Wyk said detectives were in contact with Shrien Dewani but they were unable to say when he would return to Cape Town.

Weekend newspaper reports said he was expected to return this week for the identity parade. - Cape Times