A former Cape Grace Hotel security guard says he will never forget the night he took the last photograph of Anni and Shrien Dewani, hours before she was shot dead in Khayelitsha in November 2010.
The photograph was taken with the digital camera that featured in evidence this week during the Western Cape High Court trial of Anni’s alleged hitman Xolile Mngeni. He has pleaded not guilty to her murder as well as kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
A good friend of Mngeni, who cannot be named for personal safety reasons, testified this week that about six hours after Anni’s body was found he saw the defendant in possession of a digital camera containing photographs of Anni and Shrien, as well as Anni Dewani’s watch, bangle and BlackBerry. He said he helped another Mngeni friend to delete the photos which he later tied to TV images he saw of the honeymoon couple.
“Dewani and his wife came from room four on the ground floor,” recalled Khayelitsha resident Luvuyo Latsha, 39, who said he remembered the moment clearly.
The Sunday Independent tracked down Latsha in Durbanville where he works as a security guard supervisor at an office complex. “I was on duty just inside the main door as they came down the steps,” recalled Latsha. “Dewani gave me his digital camera and asked me to take a picture. He was wearing a black suit and she was wearing a short mini and a shawl around her shoulders. I also remember Anni’s hair was to one side over her shoulder. She was a beautiful woman.”
Latsha said he asked the couple to smile for the camera.
“Anni was the one who smiled the most but I was not impressed with Dewani’s smile. It was not genuine.
“How could a man ask me to take a picture and not smile properly? I thought that maybe this guy is tired.”
Latsha also remembered that Anni and Shrien were not a typical honeymoon couple. “You can see when a couple in the hotel are on honeymoon. They are enjoying themselves. But Anni and Dewani were like brother and sister. It was like they were not happy. They just stood next to each other without holding hands or anything.
“I thought maybe it was their culture that doesn’t allow them to show affection in public.”
After pressing the shutter once, Latsha handed the camera back to Dewani, who thanked him. “Her face is still in my memory now. Her smiling face is still vivid. It was like all this happened yesterday.”
That was the last time Latsha saw Anni. The following morning she was found dead in Khayelitsha on the back seat of a VW Sharan.
In the first week following the Swedish bride’s murder, police arrested Mngeni and Mziwamadoda Qwabe, who both confessed to the murder.
By the following week Dewani’s taxi driver, Zola Tongo, was behind bars.
Come December, Tongo began serving an 18-year sentence after striking a plea bargain with the State in which he fingered Shrien as the man who had ordered the hit on Anni and Qwabe and Mngeni as the hitmen.
Dewani, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence, is fighting his extradition to SA from the UK on medical grounds.
In 2011 Qwabe claimed he had confessed because he had been tortured, but early last month he changed his tune and struck a plea bargain with the State for a 25-year jail term. In his plea he fingered both Dewani and Mngeni.
Dewani’s digital camera was not among the exhibits that have been displayed in court this week.
According to police sources that’s because they were never able to trace it after it was sold to a Nigerian at a Nyanga taxi rank.
Memories of further encounters with Dewani remain etched in Latsha’s mind. Well into his night shift, about six hours after he photographed Anni, he recalled being called to the lobby by a security guard who reported that one of the guests had survived a hijacking.
When Latsha arrived in the lobby he saw it was Shrien Dewani. “I asked him: ‘Where’s your wife?’ He didn’t give me an answer. He just walked away. To me he was very calm, not like his wife had been hijacked. And he looked perfectly dressed like in the photograph.”
Later Tongo arrived and Latsha asked him where Anni was. “He said the hijackers just took her. I told him: ‘But you were two guys, how could you let them just drive away with Anni?’ I said if it was me I would have died in the car because I can’t let someone run away with something very precious to me.
“Tongo said: ‘No, they just throw us out of the car.’ I said to him: ‘But I don’t see any bruises.’
“He looked very worried.”
Latsha said Dewani hovered every time he spoke to Tongo.
“Each and every time I was talking to Tongo, Dewani would come closer to ask him if he was okay. He always came to intervene. He was worried more about Tongo than anything else. I thought, what’s going on with this guy? Why is he so concerned about his taxi driver?”
Latsha confronted Tongo about why he had driven the Dewanis into Gugulethu so late on a Saturday night. “He told me they wanted to explore township nightlife. I said: ‘Eish, these guys are very curious.’”
By then Latsha said the cops were already pointing fingers at Tongo. “I told him that he must be ready for questions. I didn’t know what was going on, but I’m security and I could read between the lines that there was something fishy with Tongo. My colleague felt the same way. At that stage I didn’t suspect Dewani, but my instincts told me how could this gentleman let his wife go? How could he betray her like that? Because if it was me I would die in that car rather than let her go.”
But Latsha said he was shocked when he learnt a week later that Tongo had been arrested and that Dewani was a prime suspect. “I couldn’t believe it. Why would he do that? She was such a beautiful woman. It still doesn’t make sense.”