CApe Town - Picture the scene: a tourist arrives at Cape Town International Airport. He hastens towards the row of taxis and scans through the drivers beckoning him towards them for business. Choosing one shouldn’t be difficult, but this man needs more than just a driver.
He has a business proposal and, short of time, he’ll take his chances and hope the driver’s the right man for the job. They have a quick chat and, with the promise of an attractive R15 000 for one night’s work, the driver accepts. Although R15 000 may seem like a hefty reward for a few hours’ work, it’s less than a pittance when the job is a murder.
On Tuesday, murder accused Shrien Dewani is due to arrive in Cape Town to make his first appearance in a South African court in connection with allegations that he orchestrated the killing of his wife Anni while they were on honeymoon in the city.
Shuttle operator Zola Tongo, who transported the couple from the airport to the Cape Grace Hotel on November 12, 2010, has confessed to his involvement, saying Dewani offered him R15 000 for the hit.
Through his friend Monde Mbolombo – who was later granted indemnity from prosecution – Tongo was led to Mziwamadoda Qwabe and Xolile Mngeni, who carried out the killing. Qwabe also confessed to the killing, and along with Mngeni was convicted.
It emerged in court that, although the hitmen were promised R15 000, they only received R10 000. Tongo claimed Dewani paid him R1 000 three days after the murder, which means that, according to the State’s case, arranging to have his wife killed cost Dewani only R11 000.
The meagre sum offered and brazen way the killer was sought, is not out of keeping with contract killings that have passed through South Africa’s justice system over the past decade. In the Western Cape High Court, for example, these included:
* In 2006, the court sentenced Limpopo businessman Adriaan Andries Myburgh to life after he was found guilty of offering to pay his employee, Gehardus van Niekerk, to arrange the murder of his mother so that he could cash in on a R3 million insurance policy he had taken out on her life. Hitman Cornelius Beukes agreed to do the job for R200 000.
* Anna Fransina Myburgh, 65, was found dead in her Gordon’s Bay flat on October 8, 2003, after Beukes had slit her throat with a 30cm-long knife he and Van Niekerk had bought at the Waterfront. Both men are serving 20 years in jail. Beukes confessed to his involvement, implicating Myburgh and Van Niekerk. Evidence emerged that Myburgh was in financial trouble at the time he initiated the murder plot.
* In March 2012 couple, Vuyisile and Yalezwa Ndzumeka, and co-accused, Luvo Nketho, were sentenced to life in prison for the 2009 murder of Cape Flats man Bongani Dingana, after they took out a fraudulent insurance policy on his life and made themselves the beneficiaries.
*t emerged in court that the couple had paid Nketho and an accomplice R10 000 for the hit on Dingana.
* Vuyisile Ndzumeka and Nketho were also convicted of the murder of Nomzoxolo Dziba, who was the acting principal of Sithembele Mathiso High School in New Crossroads. That murder took place two months after Dingana was killed. At the time of the killing, Dziba had been asking questions about financial irregularities at the school, where Vuyisile was employed as financial officer.
* In February 2009 Najwa Petersen was sentenced to an effective 28 years behind bars for hiring hitmen to kill her husband, acclaimed musician Taliep Petersen, at their home in Athlone in December 2006.
Evidence was that Petersen asked her friend Fahiem Hendricks, who became a State witness, to recruit hitmen to kill her husband, offering to pay them R100 000, of which R30 000 would be left in the safe of their house on the night of the attack.
Hendricks testified that he had approached Abdoer Raasiet Emjedi, who recommended Waheed Hassen. Hassen took Jefferson Snyders along with him. The latter was later acquitted when the court found that there was no evidence to implicate him in a plot to kill after he claimed he was told that a robbery would be committed.
Hassen testified that, on the night of the murder, Petersen handed him a bag of cash. There was evidence that, days after the murder, Petersen also cashed a R100 000 cheque.
* Australian chartered accountant Shumsheer Singh Ghumman is serving four years in jail for trying to hire a hitman to kill the father of his love interest, Hannah Rhind.
In February 2012 the Cape Town Regional Court convicted Ghumman of incitement to commit murder, attempted murder, fraud and malicious damage to property.
The court found that Ghumman pretended to local journalists that he was a freelance photojournalist looking to do a story on hardened criminals. He found Siyabulela Yalezo who, the court found, he incited to carry out a hit on UK businessman Philip Rhind, by offering him R10 000. The plan was however foiled when Yalezo went to Rhind’s Clifton home to warn him.
But in January 2011, Ghumman decided to carry out the plan himself, petrol-bombing the Rhind home.
* Dina Rodrigues is serving a life sentence for masterminding the 2005 murder of six-month-old Jordan Leigh Norton – a child fathered by her boyfriend, Neil Wilson.
She went to a taxi rank were she found Sipho Mfazwe – the man she approached to find her a hitman to commit the murder.
Mfazwe recruited Mongezi Bobotyane, Zanethemba Gwada and Bonginkosi Sigenu. Sigenu later testified that Rodigues only paid R5 000.