The Western Cape High Court jailed Xolile Mngeni for life on Wednesday for the “callous slaughter” of honeymoon tourist Anni Dewani.
Judge Robert Henney handed down 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances and five years for possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition, which would run concurrently with his life term.
The judge said Mngeni, 25, had come across as a merciless and evil person who consistently showed no remorse.
He went shopping for branded clothing mere hours after the murder, lied to the court, wasted time with a protracted trial and had maintained his innocence throughout despite overwhelming evidence.
“The deceased in this matter did not suspect anything untoward when taken into Gugulethu to be callously slaughtered. She was totally defenceless and left to the mercy of Mziwamadoda Qwabe and the accused to be killed, after she was abandoned by her husband,” the judge said.
Anni's father Vinod Hindocha, visibly emotional, nodded his head at this remark.
“It's difficult to imagine the absolute terror and horror she must have endured when she stared down the barrel of the gun... it was an act of shameless cowardice when the accused shot her at point-blank range.”
Dewani, 28, was killed in an allegedly faked hijacking on November 13, 2010, while on honeymoon with her husband Shrien. Her slumped body was found the next day on the backseat of the car.
Mngeni's accomplices, Zola Tongo and Qwabe, were serving 18 years and 25 years respectively for their roles in the crime, in terms of a plea and sentencing agreement.
British businessman Shrien Dewani, 32, who allegedly organised the hit on his wife, is in the process of being extradited from the UK to stand trial in Cape Town.
A full extradition hearing was likely to be held in July.
Shrien Dewani has repeatedly denied the allegations, and is undergoing treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
In an order, Henney said the hotel receptionist who acted as the middleman in the supposed contract killing would not be prosecuted, following his testimony in Mngeni's trial.
He said Monde Mbolombo was far from the perfect witness and had struggled to comprehend his role, but he was satisfied he had answered frankly and honestly nonetheless.
Mngeni seemed shocked when his sentence was handed down, and stood wide-eyed, with his mouth agape.
He propped up his skinny body by placing an arm on the dock.
Hindocha and his son Anish stared at Mngeni, but he did not make eye contact.
When considering Mngeni's health - he has a brain tumour - Henney said that in a constitutional democracy, the court should not lose sight of the element of mercy.
“The element of mercy is based on one of our constitutional values, and that is human dignity.”
However, his medical condition in the case of a contract killing was not a substantial and compelling circumstance to deviate from the minimum sentence for premeditated murder.
The court had kept in mind the brutality of the crime, the “absolute arrogance and heartlessness” of Mngeni, the suffering of the Hindocha family, the message to other potential criminals and the country's tarnished image.
“The perception is easily created that in this country, one can randomly, at a price, approach any person and such a person, without hesitation, would agree to commit such a murder,” Henney said.
“I want to send home the message that the life of a human being at whatever cost is not cheap, no matter what the circumstances may be.” - Sapa