South African ‘hitman’ denies killing Dewani

A man accused of shooting Swedish honeymooner Anni Dewani pleaded not guilty to killing her as his murder trial opened in a South African court on Wednesday.

South African 'hitman' denies killing Dewani
Anni Dewani, killed while honeymooning with husband Shrien in South Africa.

Xolile Mngeni denied charges of murder, kidnapping, robbery and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition at the Cape High Court after being cleared as fit to stand trial last week despite his brain tumour.

“I confirm the plea as given by my client,” said defence lawyer Qalisile Dayimani, who said the state had to “prove each and every allegation”.

Mngeni was named by a co-accused, who pleaded guilty last week to Dewani’s murder, as the gunman in the killing of the 28-year-old in November 2010 in a plea bargain that implicated her husband Shrien Dewani.

Mziwamadoda Qwabe said Mngeni had fired a single fatal shot from the front passenger seat. He claimed the pair were recruited by the couple’s driver to carry out the paid hit allegedly on Dewani’s orders.

Mngeni has a brain tumour which a medical report said will not affect proceedings.

He answered not guilty pleas to five charges after entering the court with a walking frame and hiding his face.

Prosecutors are still hoping to put Dewani, a British businessman, in the dock in Cape Town after his extradition process was temporarily halted earlier this year, said prosecuting authority spokesman Eric Ntabazalila.

“Our hope was to get all three of them on the stand,” he said.

“We are hopeful that in the end he will come to South Africa and answer to the allegations put to him.”

The state is hoping that the trial will be wrapped up in around four weeks, said Ntabazilila.

Qwabe and the driver Zola Tongo will testify as state witnesses after both entered plea bargains that accused Shrien Dewani of orchestrating his wife’s death as a botched hijacking.

Qwabe was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was the second accused to incriminate Dewani in the killing, after the driver entered his own plea in 2010 and is serving 18 years in prison.

Britain approved Dewani’s extradition but the London High Court shelved the process in March, citing health grounds with his lawyers saying he suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Dewani has denied any involvement in the contract killing of his Swedish wife.

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Denmark bans travel from South Africa over new virus variant

Denmark said it is barring entry to non-Danish residents of South Africa due to fears over the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus there.

Denmark bans travel from South Africa over new virus variant
Passengers at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, in December 2020. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

South Africans and other foreign nationals who reside in Denmark will be allowed to return to Denmark from South Africa under the restrictions.

Denmark has not recorded any cases of the new variant, which was detected by South African authorities in mid-December and has since been found in a number of other countries.

The South African variant and another which has emerged in Britain are said to be more infectious versions of the virus, and have prompted widespread concern. The two variants are not the same as each other.

Denmark's decision came into effect Wednesday and will last until January 17th.

“This means that foreigners residing in South Africa generally will be refused entry to Denmark during this period,” the justice ministry said in a statement late Tuesday.

The following groups from South Africa can be exempted and granted entry to Denmark:

  • Primary carers for children under the age of consent (upon documentation of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 24 hours of arrival in Denmark)
  • Family or partners to seriously ill or dying persons in Denmark (upon documentation of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 24 hours of arrival in Denmark)
  • Inward travel for the purpose of goods transport

Denmark, which is under a partial lockdown since mid-December, has almost 90 cases of the new British variant.

It has already barred entry to arrivals from Britain except for Danish nationals and permanent residents, who must present a negative virus test.

READ ALSO: Residents of Denmark returning from UK must take Covid-19 test within 24 hours of travel

Authorities said Tuesday they were toughening coronavirus restrictions and urged people to avoid social contacts.

“Stay at home as much as you can, don't meet people outside your household, those close to you,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a press conference.