Posted: Aug 8, 2012 4:31 AM
Updated: Aug 8, 2012 4:31 AM
JOHANNESBURG (AP) One of two South African men accused of being hired by a British newlywed to kill his Swedish bride pleaded guilty Wednesday to his involvement in the slaying, a prosecution spokesman said. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, a court official said.
Mziwamadoda Qwabe pleaded guilty to kidnapping, robbery, murder and illegal possession of a firearm over the November 2010 killing of Anni Dewani, whose body was found in an abandoned taxi in Cape Town's impoverished Gugulethu township, said Eric Ntabazalila, a spokesman for South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority.
It was not immediately clear what the plea deal with prosecutors involved. Ntabazalila declined to immediately offer other details of the deal, struck as both Qwabe and accused accomplice Xolile Mngeni faced a pretrial hearing Wednesday in Cape Town.
A lawyer for Qwabe could not be immediately reached for comment.
Prosecutors say Dewani's husband, Shrien, hired Qwabe and Mngeni to kill her. The trial has been postponed several times due to the poor health of Mngeni who has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, who had surgery to remove a brain tumor in June 2011.
In March, a High Court in Britain ruled that it would be "unjust and oppressive" to extradite Shrien Dewani to South Africa. The judges said Dewani's mental condition had worsened since his arrest in December 2010, and he should not be extradited in his current state. But they said it was likely Dewani would recover "within a reasonable time" and could then be sent to South Africa.
Dewani, who has been treated in a psychiatric hospital, denies involvement in his wife's death. He claims the couple's vehicle was attacked by gunmen during a township tour.
Dewani was allowed to leave South Africa before a confession by taxi driver Zola Tongo in 2010. Tongo said Dewani offered him 15,000 rand (about $2,100) to arrange the killing and make it look like a carjacking.
In a plea bargain to avoid a life sentence, Tongo pleaded guilty and was convicted of kidnapping, murder, aggravated robbery and obstructing justice. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, and is expected to give evidence at trial.
Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap.