Zola Tongo.
Zola Tongo.

Tongo’s family ties

By Caryn Dolley Time of article published Dec 10, 2010

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Zola Robert Tongo’s distraught mother and relatives plan to visit him at a Malmesbury prison on Saturday to find out why he helped plan honeymoon tourist Anni Dewani’s murder.

“We want to hear directly from him why he did it. We want it from the horse’s mouth. So far all we know is what came out in court,” Tongo’s aunt said yesterday.

She asked that her name and the names of Tongo’s relatives be withheld as the family feared residents of Gugulethu, where the Dewani’s were hijacked while being driven by Tongo, would target them.

Tongo’s mother was too distraught to speak to the Cape Times yesterday.

Three days ago Tongo, 31, a father of five from Bothasig, pleaded guilty in the Western Cape High Court to charges of murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravated circumstances and obstructing the administration of justice.

He was sentenced to 18 years in jail.

In court documents Tongo said he had been struggling financially and, when Shrien Dewani had approached him with an offer of R15 000 if he helped orchestrate his wife’s murder, Tongo had agreed.

Yesterday the aunt said the family was reeling in shock following Tuesday’s sentencing.

“We’re not okay. Earlier I went to the shop and just started crying,” she said.

The aunt said that shortly before Anni Dewani’s murder her 15-year-old nephew had been killed when he was stabbed 15 times.

The family had heard about Anni Dewani’s murder, which happened on November 13, around the time they had buried the teenager.

They had felt sorry for the Dewani family who were suffering a loss similar to theirs, and had not connected Tongo to the incident.

“Zola’s a very quiet person. He never really says much. He kept to himself. He’s a hard worker. The last time I saw him was some time in June,” the aunt said.

Only when Tongo’s name had appeared in newspapers, which said he had been driving the Dewanis around when the hijacking took place, did his family realise he was linked to the incident.

“He didn’t say anything about it to us.”

The aunt said her nephew was arrested five days after Dewani’s murder.

“We were devastated. His mother collapsed and was admitted to hospital. She was discharged the next day. She’s not coping. None of us is coping. Zola’s 15-year-old sister is distraught. She was writing exams but was so, so traumatised,” she said.

The aunt said Tongo, “a very good person”, had always been a hard worker and had appeared to be well off.

“He was always driving a posh car. I don’t know what went wrong.”

Neither she nor other family members were aware of any financial difficulties.

The documents said Tongo financially supported his sister and had supplemented his mother’s income. She worked as a domestic worker.

The aunt said Tongo had once been married but had divorced. He had been living with a girlfriend at the time of Dewani’s murder.

The aunt did not know what would happen to his five children, aged 10, two aged five, a three-year-old and an infant.

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