Anni Dewani's father lashes SA over claim that honeymoon killer Zola Tongo is heading for freedom
Slain Swedish bride Anni Dewani’s family has slammed SA's justice system after reports that one of her killers could be released from jail at the end of the month.
Zola Tongo, who chauffeured Anni and her British husband, Shrien Dewani, during their honeymoon in Cape Town, is serving an 18-year jail sentence for his role in the murder.
Anni’s body was found with a bullet wound to the neck in Tongo’s abandoned car in Khayelitsha on the morning of November 14 2010. Tongo confessed that Dewani gave him R15,000 to find hitmen to kill Anni.
Tongo, who was sentenced shortly after the murder, said he hired Xolile Mngeni and Mziwamadoda Qwabe to carry out the hit. Both hitmen got lengthy jail sentences, but Mngeni has since died.
Dewani was extradited and stood trial in the high court in Cape Town but was discharged because of a lack of evidence.
Anni’s father, Vinod Hindocha, told TimesLIVE this week that his family’s emotional wounds were reopened by an e-mail on Monday from their legal representative in Cape Town, advocate Jared Naidoo, informing them that a “decision was made to grant Mr Tongo parole”.
The correctional services department told TimesLIVE this was untrue, and a decision would be made only later this month.
Naidoo's e-mail reads: “On Friday evening [6 July 2020], I received a call from Malmesbury prison, from one of the members of the parole committee who sat in our hearing last year.
“He informed me, and asked me to inform you, that at a parole meeting hearing that occurred on May 27 2020, the decision was made to grant Mr Tongo parole. His parole will commence on July 28 2020.
“I pressed said member about the decision being made without any representative of the family being present, but was assured that our previous representations were once again taken into account when considering the decision to grant parole.”
In the e-mail, Naidoo said he disagreed with the parole board’s decision but advised the Hindochas that the decision was discretionary.
“On paper, Mr Tongo has done what he needs to receive parole and the committee was inclined to give it to him. With that being said, there wouldn’t be much sense in trying to challenge the decision,” the e-mail said.
“I’m sorry to have to be the bearer of bad news, but I firmly believe that be it in this life or the next, justice will be done.”
Hindocha laid into Tongo and SA's justice system. “This man should be behind bars, he is dangerous to society. He doesn’t deserve to be outside,” he told TimesLIVE from Sweden. “I think the parole committee says that he ticked all the boxes to get the parole, but that doesn’t make sense. If you are a murderer and you know you have done something wrong, naturally, you will try to be nice in prison to escape the long sentence. And that is what he did.
“He is a very smart guy. He is fooling the system, he is fooling everybody. I wish I could come down and object but I don’t think it is going to help because the parole board has already decided. The decision has been made, with or without my objection.”
Hindocha and his brother, Ashok, travelled to SA in May last year to object to Tongo’s application for release on parole.
“I had said to myself I will never set my foot again in South Africa. But still I did last year just because the parole board wrote to us and said, ‘If you want to object to this man’s release you have to be here in person'.
“So I flew all the way from Sweden, myself and my brother, for three days (and they delayed his release). This is shocking, surprising and very irritating. I ask myself where is justice?”
Hindocha said Tongo has shown no remorse. “We thought that he would at least regret what he did but I could see no regret on his face. He never said, ‘I’m sorry for what I did’,” said Hindocha.
“We had an opportunity to address him directly and I showed him my daughter’s picture on my mobile phone and asked him: ‘Did you know who this girl was?’ He said: 'No'. I said: ‘This is my daughter Anni.’
“Then he put up an act and started crying. He is a good actor anyway, he has managed to fool the parole board. This is a disgrace to the country, a disgrace to the justice system. I have no words.”
Ashok added: “We were not informed about this decision, like everything in the entire case; from the judges to the prosecution, it’s been a big surprise every time.
“But this hurts because I think he should have served his whole sentence. We are getting further away from the truth.”
Singabakho Nxumalo, spokesperson for the department of correctional services, said Tongo still has to appear before the parole board.
“We have noted the media reports making [the] rounds about Zola Tongo being granted parole. The fact is that inmate Tongo is to schedule to appear before the parole board in the month of July 2020 and a decision on his parole placement will be made,” said Nxumalo.