Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Honeymoon Murder of Anni Dewani

The Suspects


According to The Telegraph, Shrien's personal assistant retained the services of Zola Tongo prior to the couple's arrival in Cape Town. Like many taxi drivers in South Africa, Tongo often served as a chauffeur and fixer for wealthy tourists — he would meet the travelers at the airport and remain with them throughout their stay. Tongo picked the couple up at the Cape Town International Airport and drove them to their hotel on November 12. According to Tongo, Shrien distracted his wife — saying she should call her parents to check in with them — while the two men discussed the details of Anni Dewani's imminent murder.

Shrien Dewani
Shrien Dewani
"After we arrived at the hotel," The Telegraph reported Tongo saying at his trial, "Shrien Dewani approached me alone and asked me if I knew anyone that could 'have a client of his taken off the scene'...After contacting a friend, we agreed that Shrien Dewani and I would be ejected from the vehicle and that the female occupant had to be killed."

The price for his wife's life? As reported in The New York Times, Tongo testified, "Dewani had given him $150 to set up the murder. Two other men were alleged to have done the actual killing, receiving the $2,200 that was eagerly offered for the job."

They had to go to the agreed upon abduction site twice. As Tongo later testified, when his taxi arrived at the designated site the killers were not yet in place. Tongo then drove the couple around and took them to a restaurant. "Prior to entering the restaurant, Shrien Dewani asked me what was happening and said he wanted the job done that night," claimed Tongo.

The alleged killers, Xolile Mngeni and Mziwamadoda Qwabe seemed to be pulled straight from central casting's "African criminal" pool. Mngeni, in particular, fits the stereotype of an inner-city predator. According to the Mail and Guardian, over the past three years Mngeni has been arrested for a number of violent crimes, though many of the charges were ultimately withdrawn. In addition to assault and robbery cases in 2008 and 2009, Mngeni was the prime suspect in both a murder and an attempted murder.

The Mail and Guardian also reported that at the time of Anni Dewani's murder Mngeni had been free on bail pending a trial for drug possession, but that a warrant had been issued for his arrest for failure to appear in court.

Money seems to be the sole motive for the alleged triggermen. Neither suspect had any resources to mention.

According to News 24 South Africa, after their murder there "was apparently 'a bit of a party' at a Sonwabo's Place, a tavern in Khayelitsha and a favorite watering hole of the suspects. Qwabe apparently entertained others with his karaoke singing and bought drinks for everyone."

Mngeni felt particular pressure to get money: He was the only one of his peers who had not gone through the traditional rite of circumcision, and this fact was reportedly a staggering embarrassment to the young killer.

"He was desperate to get money to go to the bush," Lennox Mngeni, a cousin, told News 24 South Africa. "This thing always bothered him. All his friends were circumcised so he felt inferior...he felt women didn't see him as a man."

Zola Tongo
Zola Tongo
Zola Tongo's involvement seems the strangest. As a cab driver, he was the most successful member of his family, and he had only his livelihood to lose for the small profit. But Tongo confessed. In exchange for his testimony he received a relatively lenient sentence of 18 years. Though no picnic, it's conceivable that Tongo will live to see the light of day after his sentence. His accomplices, should they be sentenced after their February 2011 trial, may not be so lucky.

Still, as with all deals, the fact that Tongo's damning testimony was offered in exchange for years of his life cast some doubt on his accusations. After all, why would Shrien Dewani have his lovely new wife murdered? There is no good answer to this, though any number of reasons were offered to dislike Shrien Dewani.

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