Friday, January 7, 2011

DEWANI: arranging a hitman in South Africa

Zola Tongo in the Cape High Court. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his part in Anni Dewani's killing. Photo: Sandiso Phaliso/WCN
Although getting a hitman in Cape Town is easy to organise, it appears to take a little more groundwork than simply speaking to the taxi driver you meet at the airport, as was put forward by taxi driver Zola Tongo when he testified in the Dewani murder case in the Cape High Court this week.After striking a plea bargain with the state, Tongo, 31, who was driving the VW Sharan honeymooning couple Shrien and Anni Dewani were traveling in when they were hijacked and in which Anni’s body was later found on November 14, told the court that minutes after he met the couple at the airport, Shrien had asked him if he could hire a hitman to kill Anni.

Tongo was on Tuesday sentenced to 18-years imprisonment by Judge President John Hlope for his part in the killing of Anni Dewani.

In an affidavit presented to the court, Tonogo said Shrien offered him R15 000 to organise Anni’s killing.

Barely 36 hours later, following a hijacking in Gugulethu, Anni Dewani was killed by a bullet in her neck.

This week West Cape News set out to see whether it is indeed that easy to pay for murder in South Africa.

The results were frightening.

In one day, three people were found who were willing to kill someone for money. The asking price ranged from R5 000 to R15 000.

By approaching people known to be connected to the criminal underworld – and many people who have grown up in a South African township know such people as they often live on the same street – it took only half a day to round up a trio of young men willing to carry out a hit.
However, all three interviewed said conducting a hit would take a number of days, or even weeks, to organise.

The three potential hit men all said they had been approached to kill before, but had had various reasons for turning down the job. Either the ‘client’ couldn’t provide enough information about the potential victim, there was no upfront payment forthcoming, or they knew the victim and were too closely associated.

The potential victims had been a wife, a husband and a business partner.

The hitmen said they would need to watch their victim’s movements for a few days, and might even befriend them before murdering them.

“It must look like a robbery, so we must rob the victim of all his valuables which we would sell,” said one of the young men.

In Philippi, unemployed 25-year-old grade 10 school dropout Linda Mazembe* said he’d commit murder for R10 000 and flee to another province after committing the crime.
He said he would need a week of preparation before killing his victim, and would have to be paid in full beforehand.

However, he said the ‘client’ had to be referred by someone.

“I don’t trust anyone because they could be police investigators. If someone I don’t know approaches me with the deal I would not do it, instead I would report it to the police. I must know the go-between and I must trust him,” said Mazembe.

Another Philippi youth, also unemployed, Mzikayise Qwaba*, 27, said conducting a hit would depend on the ‘client’s motives.

He said if the victim was a popular or well-known person then the price for murder would be higher because the investigation would be more thorough.

Qwaba said the money must be able to cover his burial costs and care for his family for a couple of months if anything went wrong.

Tongo told President Judge John Hlophe that he picked Shrien and Anni Dewani up frm the Cape Town International Airport on November 12, where Shrien asked him if he was willing to accept R15 000 to kill his newlywed wife.

Tongo said he asked a friend to organise the killing. He said two men were hired and all involved would take a share of the proceeds.

It is not the first such case to appear before the Cape High Court.

In 2007 Dina Rodrigues was sentenced to 28-years after Dina Rodrigues and hiring four hitmen who killed the six-month old child of her former boyfriend in 2005.

The men were paid R1 000 for the killing which was made to look like botched robbery.
Just last month in Pretoria Manda Reyneke, 47, was accused of conspiracy to murder Blue Bulls rugby player Deon Helberg, 22.

Reyneke allegedly tried to hire two Nigerian nationals to kill Helberg, who had had a relationship with Reyneke’s daughter Jalien, but the men approached the police with information and a sting was set up. – Sandiso Phaliso, West Cape News

* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the interviewee.

 Comment: remember Shrien himself said the driver was hired by his secretary in England , the article seems unaware of this fact.