A South African court trying a man for the murder of honeymooner Anni Dewani — allegedly on the orders of her new British husband — on Wednesday heard evidence from a witness who said he was asked to find a hitman for a foreigner.
The prosecution’s first witness told the court how he acted as a middle man after the couple’s driver, Zola Tongo, asked if he knew of a hired assassin for a foreigner who wanted a “lady to be killed.”
“He [Tongo] called me aside, he wanted to speak to me. I went to him and then he asked do I know anybody who is a hitman,” he told the first day of Xolile Mngeni’s murder trial.
“He said there was a gentleman who was ordering this murder to be done,” said the witness, who the court ruled should not be identified. “He said this gentleman is not from here.”
Mngeni denied charges of murder, kidnapping, robbery and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition at the Cape High Court after being cleared as fit to stand trial last week despite a brain tumor.
Mngeni was named by a co-accused, who pleaded guilty last week to Dewani’s murder, as the gunman in the 2010 killing of the 28-year-old in a plea bargain that implicated her husband, Shrien Dewani.
The witness said that he had introduced Tongo, who had met the couple at the airport, by telephone to another man on the Friday before Anni Dewani’s death.
“I told him that there’s a gentleman called Zola that is looking for a hitman,” he said.
He was in touch with both men on the Saturday and passed on information using his work phone at a local hotel, including that the trio were leaving a restaurant and were on the way to a township where their car was hijacked.
The man visited his home on the Sunday morning that Anni Dewani’s body was discovered in the abandoned car on Nov. 14.
He told him that it was “all over the news,” and to tell the driver, whose phone was off, that he had received less money than what was promised to him.
“He said to me I must not ask too many questions, what needed to be done is done,” he told the court, saying he understood this to mean that “the murder has been committed.”
Prosecutors are still hoping to put Shrien Dewani in the dock in Cape Town after his extradition process was temporarily halted earlier this year.
Britain approved Shrien Dewani’s extradition, but the London High Court shelved the process in March, citing health grounds.
Shrien Dewani has denied any involvement in the contract killing.