Man pleads guilty to newlywed honeymoon killing

Anni Dewani and his wife 
By: Eva Fett 

One of two South African men accused of being hired by a British newlywed to kill his Swedish wife, pleaded guilty on Wednesday, of his involvement in the murder, and he received a sentence of 25 years in prison after promising to cooperate with prosecutors, officials said.

Mziwamadoda Qwabe pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping, robbery, murder and illegal possession of a firearm, during a hearing in Superior Court of Western Cape, for the November 2010 killing of Anni Dewani.

Judge John Hlophe said Qwabe agreed to a negotiated plea deal as prosecutors and defense lawyers met to prepare for the scheduled start of his trial on Monday, after he was accused as an accomplice with Xolile Mngeni, a court official said.

The agreement requires him to cooperate and testify against other defendants in the case, including the newlywed husband, who is accused of hiring two men to kill his bride on their honeymoon, said Eric Ntabazalila, a spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa.

Lawyers and prosecutors will meet on Wednesday with Mngeni, Ntabazalila said.

"It is unclear what will happen," said Ntabazalila.

The trial of Qwabe and Mngeni has been postponed several times due to the ill health of Mngeni. Mngeni had surgery to remove a brain tumor in June 2011.

The Dewanis were honeymooning in South Africa in November 2010, two weeks after their marriage. Anni Dewani’s body was found in an abandoned taxi in the poor township of Gugulethu Cape Town. She was shot in the back of the neck. Shrien Dewani, the husband of Anni, later told investigators armed men forced him and a taxi driver from the car when taking a tour.

Officials first thought that the crime was robbery, where violent crime is high, but attacks against foreign tourists are low. However, the driver, Zola Tongo, said later that Shrien Dewani offered him 15,000 rand or about $2,100 to arrange the killing and make it look like a carjacking.

In a plea bargain to avoid a life sentence, Tongo pleaded guilty and was convicted of kidnapping, murder, aggravated robbery and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, and is expected to testify at trial.

Dewani denied having hired anyone to kill his wife, he was allowed by the authorities to leave South Africa for the United Kingdom, where he was arrested later.

In March, a Superior Court of the United Kingdom stated that it would be "unjust and oppressive" to extradite Dewani to South Africa because his mental condition has deteriorated since his arrest there.

Dewani’s lawyer told the court in a July 31 hearing that he needed at least a year to recover from depression and post traumatic stress disorder before being possibly sent back to South Africa.