Dewani defence highlights several improbabilities in Tongo's testimony

Francois van Zyl said former taxi driver Zola Tongo's version of how the plot was initiated is doubtful.

FILE: State witness Zola Tongo at the Western Cape High Court on 7 December 2010. Picture: EPA.

CAPE TOWN - British businessman Shrien Dewani's lawyer has told the Western Cape High Court the state's star witness has proven to be "completely unreliable".

He said the testimony of former taxi driver Zola Tongo is the pillar on which the state has built its case.

Dewani is accused of hiring Tongo to recruit hitmen to kill his wife, Anni Hindocha Dewani, during the couple's honeymoon in Cape Town in November 2010.

Tongo is the man responsible for organising the staged hijacking in which Anni was killed and has blamed the British businessman for being the alleged mastermind behind the alleged hit.

Francois van Zyl argued the fact that Dewani would ask Tongo about a hit approximately 30 minutes after meeting him is highly improbable.

He said it's even more improbable that Tongo, who had never been involved in any criminal activity before, would immediately agree to contact his friend to find a contract killer.

He said Tongo's version of how the plot was initiated and how his co-conspirators were recruited are doubtful.

Van Zyl said Tongo's testimony is riddled with contradictions on virtually every material aspect to such an extent that the court simply cannot trust what he says.

He added that there is no case against his client if the court can't find there is evidence of such a conspiracy.

He is arguing for his client's discharge and acquittal after the state closed its case last week.

The prosecution will also be given a chance to respond to Van Zyl's argument.

Dewani has pleaded not guilty to charges including kidnapping, murder and defeating the ends of justice.

His lawyers are calling for his discharge and acquittal in terms of section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

Judge Jeanette Traverso has to decide whether the case should be dismissed or not.

Dewani was extradited from Britain in April after losing a three-year battle to avoid trial in South Africa.

His mental health has been a topic of concern over the last few years but in August he was deemed fit to stand trial by a panel of experts who had been observing him at the Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital in Pinelands.

He was initially said to be suffering from post-traumatic stress and depression.


A web of inconsistencies emerged during Tongo's cross-examination.

He was repeatedly quizzed on Tuesday about a number of discrepancies between his sworn statement and his testimony.

Tongo said some mistakes were made by him and blamed the others on the officer who drafted the document.

When asked to explain his mistakes, he repeatedly said his memory is clearer now than it was back then.

He said he now has a clearer recollection of how events unfolded than when he was interviewed by police almost two weeks after Anni's murder.

Tongo was given an opportunity to correct what he has now described as mistakes in his sworn statement to police, but he didn't.

Van Zyl then questioned why Tongo, who had an opportunity to correct mistakes in his statement, opted to make only one change to the document.

Click here to view the heads of argument.

For more on the honeymoon murder trial, _ click here._