Two years after Anni Dewani’s life was brutally cut short on honeymoon, her killer has been convicted.
For her family, who have patiently sought justice, it was a step in the right direction as they wait to see if her husband Shrien will be extradited to face trial accused of hiring her killers.
The British businessman and his new wife were on honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010 when they were held at gunpoint after taking a night time taxi ride through the township of Gugulethu to see some of the “real Africa”. While the taxi driver Zola Tongo and the groom were forced from the car unharmed, Mrs Dewani’s body, with a single bullet wound to the neck, was discovered the next day in the abandoned car.
Today Xolile Mngeni, the man who fired the fatal shot into the 28-year-old newlywed, was found guilty of premeditated murder at Western Cape High Court.
Despite his protestations that he had been set up, Judge Robert Henney said: “The case against the accused is overwhelming and the accused could barely avoid the avalanche of evidence from crashing down on him.”
The conviction means that all three of the South Africans accused of killing Mrs Dewani have now been jailed. Her 32-year-old husband, who has consistently denied having anything to do with her death, continues to fight extradition with his lawyers insisting that he is too ill from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder to face trial in Cape Town.
Mrs Dewani’s uncle Ashok Hindocha said: “I’m happy that the case is moving forward. Now there’s only one last bit left and I hope we can get to that point as soon as possible, so that we can find closure.”
Mngeni, 25, stood expressionless as the judgement was delivered before slowly making his way down the stairs to the cells using a walking frame. His trial was repeatedly delayed while he had surgery to remove a brain tumour.
He was also found guilty of robbery with aggravating circumstances and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition but acquitted of kidnapping. He will be sentenced on Wednesday.
Tongo as well as another suspect Mziwmadoda Qwabe had previously both admitted their part in the crime, insisting that Mr Dewani organised the hit. After plea agreements they were sentenced to 18 years and 25 years respectively.
Mngeni’s trial heard how Qwabe admitted that the pair of them staged a carjacking. He was, he said, driving the car when Mngeni aimed a 7.62 mm pistol at Mrs Dewani and pulled the trigger. In a panic they threw the spent bullet casing into a sewer before fleeing.
In a 60-page judgment, Judge Henney dismissed claims by Mngeni’s lawyer that his client had been set up, describing Qwabe’s evidence as clear, precise, detailed and chronological.
Mngeni’s palm print was found on the taxi, he could not explain why he was seen with the other convicted men the day before or why he had two stolen phones from the case.
“The version of the accused was riddled with improbabilities, inconsistencies and untruths,” insisted the judge.
Mr Dewani has been fighting extradition for almost two years and in March the High Court temporarily halted the process, ruling that it would be “unjust and oppressive” to send him until he had recovered.
Last month Senior District Judge Howard Riddle heard from a psychiatrist who assessed Mr Dewani on behalf of the South African government and said it could be months, even years, before he is fit enough to be sent for trial.