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Dewani trial: Tongo's plea bargain in sharp focus

Francois van Zyl asked Tongo why he didn’t correct mistakes in his statement when given the chance to do so.

FILE: Zola Tongo (R) covers his face as he attends a session at the Cape Town High Court, Cape Town, 7 December 2010. Picture: EPA.

CAPE TOWN - The circumstances that led to former taxi driver Zola Tongo entering into a plea bargain with the state have come into sharp focus in the Shrien Dewani murder trial in the Western Cape High Court today.

Tongo is the state's star witness in its case against Dewani, a British businessman accused of ordering a hit on his wife, Anni Hindocha Dewani, during the couple's honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.

It's claimed Dewani hired Tongo to recruit hitmen to carry out the job.

Dewani's lawyer Francois Van Zyl told Tongo that high-level negotiations preceded his signing of a plea bargain with the state.

Shrien Dewani's brother and his legal team arrive at court. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

He said Tongo's affidavit was crucial evidence that wasn't hurriedly drawn up by just any police officer, instead, he said it was drawn up by a senior policeman involved in the investigation.

Yet Tongo claims there are several mistakes in his sworn statement.

Van Zyl asked Tongo why he didn't correct those mistakes when given the chance to do so to which the witness responded that 2010 was a difficult time for him but over the last few years, he has been able to remember things more clearly.

TONGO 'UNDERPLAYING' MIDDLEMAN'S ROLE

Van Zyl has accused Tongo of intentionally underplaying the role of a middleman in the honeymoon murder plot.

Middleman, Monde Mbolombo, was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying against hitman Xolile Mngeni.

Mbolombo is the man who linked Tongo to the second hitman, Mziwamadoda Qwabe.

But since the start of Dewani's trial, the Briton's lawyer has questioned whether Mbolombo played a far bigger role in the murder plot than the conspirators are letting on.

A series of phone calls between Tongo, Mbolombo and Qwabe in the build up to the shooting is being used by the defence to raise suspicion.

Tongo claims Mbolombo wanted R5,000 for his role in the alleged conspiracy but he expected Mbolombo to take his share from the R15,000 which was offered as payment for the hit.

Earlier, Tongo insisted all the details he gave to police regarding the murder of the Briton's wife are true.

The former taxi driver has been unwavering and insistent that he can't remember exact details of the alleged plot to kill Anni.

Van Zyl repeatedly probed him on his plea affidavit.

At one stage, the lawyer asked him to explain why he deviated so drastically in his evidence from the contents of that document.

Tongo simply answered: "Everything I've said is true."

During proceedings, Dewani passed notes to a relative. At times, he seemed perplexed by some of the evidence.