BBC PANORAMA constantly labels the taxi driver Tongo a “liar” throughout the programme. But let us take a look at who else calls Tongo a liar and since when they started doing so. Then we will examine if Tongo’s being called a liar is a credible claim by the Panorama team.
TONGO’S A NICE MAN, A VERY VERY NICE MAN
Shrien Dewani hugged and consoled taxi driver Tongo on hearing news of Anni’s death. In a tape-recorded interview, Dewani told Nick Parker of The Sun, “He was crying. It seemed the most natural thing.”
Dewani is caught on CCTV smiling at Tongo when he greeted him two days later, at the Cape Grace Hotel, to secretly give him money in a white bag; CCTV which his brother Preyen Dewani tried to seize from the hotel’s security manager but was beaten to it by South African police.
Shrien Dewani also spoke to Dan Newling of the Daily Mail about Tongo. He said, “Initially I had a lot of suspicion about the driver. But he spent all of Sunday helping the police and was able to answer all the police’s questions. By the end, I quite liked him.”
While back in the UK, he expressed doubt about Tongo’s involvement in the murder when he was first arrested by South Africa Police.
“If he really has done this, my faith in mankind has been totally shaken. How could someone who appeared so friendly and so trustworthy do something so inhuman?”
So even when Tongo had been arrested for Anni’s murder, Shrien Dewani was highlighting his friendliness and trustworthiness.
In his signed statement to Police, Dewani frequently referred to the touting driver by first name, Zola, suggesting familiarity. But he doesnt always refer to Anni by name, instead calling her “my wife”:
“‘Zola took us into Gugulethu because my wife insisted to see how the nightlife in the townships was”.
On Panorama, Jeremy Vine did not mention any of these positive references that murder suspect Shrien Dewani made to Tongo.
Tongo was then arrested. Having confessed his role in the fake carjacking and murder, Tongo received seven years off his sentence in a plea bargain but was still jailed for eighteen long years. He also lost his job. He said Dewani paid him to organise the murder and his testimony is supported with phone records, text message, CCTV footage, money movements and multiple other witnesses.
Suddenly, the Dewani propaganda machine and lawyer change their stance on Tongo. Tongo goes from being a nice, likeable, trustworthy guy to being called a “liar”. Note that they did not primarily label him a murderer who killed Anni, but a liar.
Panorama continues with this “liar” label that murder suspect Shrien Dewani’s PR and legal team have put on the taxi driver. Tongo is repeatedly called a liar over and over again by the programme’s presenter, Jeremy Vine, as detailed below.
At 31m 8sec of Panorama, there is CCTV footage of Shrien in the lounge at the Cape Grace, talking on his mobile, and they have a voiceover of Tongo’s lawyer William Da Grass, saying, “Dewani demanded to know what the hold-up was, and insisted that the act be perpetrated, and be perpetrated that very day.”
At 31m 24sec, they show footage from the Cape Grace Hotel bar and Jeremy Vine says, “This is CCTV of that call. Shrien Dewani is holding the phone to his left ear; Anni’s side. He shows no sign of agitation, and according to Tongo, he insists on Anni’s murder when she’s sat right next to him.”
However, William Da Grass was NOT talking about the phone call seen in the CCTV. He was talking about Dewani telling Tongo in person, TWO HOURS LATER, 50KM AWAY at Surfside, where the two of them are seen walking together on CCTV with Anni is trailing several metres behind, that he wanted the job done that night. You can view an excerpt from the program showing that footage HERE.
Tongo’s court statement read, “I then drove to Surfside restaurant in the Strand. Shrien Dewani and the deceased had supper in the restaurant. Prior to entering the restaurant, Shrien Dewani asked me what was happening and said he wanted the job done that night.”
It is clear Tongo was referring to his conversation with murder accused Shrien Dewani, in person at Surfside. He was not referring to the phone call from the Cape Grace Hotel.
Panorama attacked Tongo’s credibility, by misrepresenting what he and his lawyer said, and showing different CCTV footage with the wrong audio.
So how many times did Tongo apparently lie, according to Panorama?
Zola Tongo: “I had no further contact with Dewani after that.”
Jeremy Vine: “Another lie. Phone records and CCTV show Shrien called him an hour and forty minutes after giving him the bag. Tongo’s testimony makes no mention of that 54 second call. That’s the sixth time the CCTV contradicts crucial evidence in his sworn statement.”
Panorama did not show this CCTV that Vine alleged exists. It could easily be that by “contact”, Tongo is referring to personal contact, as opposed to telephone communication.
But a 54 second call from Dewani to Tongo, several days after the murder, hardly seems to rate as “crucial evidence”, in the absence of any further detail concerning the call.
Zola Tongo: “Dewani called me in a agitated state to find out where I was.”
Jeremy Vine: “This is CCTV of that call. Shrien Dewani is holding his phone to his left ear – Anni’s side. He shows no sign of agitation…”
Jeremy Vine claims to be able to tell, from grainy CCTV footage of the back of Shrien’s head, partially obscured by the furniture and table lamp, that Shrien “shows no sign of agitation”.
Vine’s credibility here is absolutely zero. When a person speaks on the phone, they express agitation in their voice, such as in the tone and choice of words. They don’t necessarily physically jump up and down, waving their hands around, cartoon-style.
Vine is unable to show Dewani’s facial expression or lip movements of “that call”. Vine does not have any audio recording of this call. So how can he possibly claim there was “no sign of agitation”?
- 22min 15 sec
Zola Tongo: “Dewani called me at about 11:30 am. He asked me to pick him up at the hotel.”
- 22min 23 sec
Jeremy Vine: “But phone records in the police docket show there was no call.”
If there was no phone call, as Vine claims, how did Tongo appear at the hotel shortly afterwards, as if by magic, to collect Shrien Dewani alone, to take him to the money exchange? A trip which CCTV shows Dewani both exiting and leaving the hotel, and driving off with Tongo.
- 28min 55sec
Jeremy Vine: “We know from phone records in the prosecution file that not once after the gunmen met Zola Tongo did the taxi driver ever call Shrien and tell him the plan to kill Anni was in place for that night…”
Once again, Vine has set up a straw man argument in an attempt to discredit the case against murder suspect Shrien Dewani. Why would Tongo have needed to call Shrien? Dewani and Tongo had a long chat at midday, only two hours earlier, on their way to and from the Golden Touch jeweller to change his US Dollars to Rand. Tongo says the kidnap and murder plan, already agreed the night before, was finalised during that face-to-face conversation. There is evidence of text messages between them. They spoke at the hotel in person and they also spoke outside Surfside restaurant in person before the meal.
Vine does not offer any evidence or argument as to why Dewani would have needed Tongo to contact him again that afternoon.
- Jeremy Vine claims that Tongo is not telling the truth about events at the Surfside Restaurant. He says that “if the timer on the CCTV is correct”, Tongo called Mbolombo “8 seconds after disappearing from view”.
As discussed in “THE 21 LOST SECONDS“, there are numerous reasons to doubt whether Panorama’s criticisms have any merit. Besides the fact that a threat “do it tonight or I’ll kill you” could easily be made in less than 8 seconds, there is an unexplained gap of 21 seconds in the CCTV footage, and it is not clear whether Tongo is referring to the internal entrance to the restaurant proper, or the external entrance to the building.
Furthermore, CCTV from the Colosseum shows Mbolombo apparently on the phone to Tongo with the time given by Panorama as 9:31 pm, so Panorama’s own statements on this issue are far from convincing.
- According to Vine at 53:29, Tongo “says he went looking for Shrien, having realised he’d been short-changed, but CCTV reveals that to be untrue.”
There is no record in the publicly released statements from Tongo that says he was short-changed and went back to look for Dewani. The CCTV shows him strolling out of the hotel quite relaxed, swinging the white bag that Shrien Dewani had given him and which Tongo had earlier gone into the toilets with, most probably to check and count.
It is far from clear how Vine thinks the CCTV footage could disprove Tongo’s statement. The fact that Shrien called Tongo an hour and forty minutes later shows that in fact communication was ongoing between the the fare-touting driver of an unlicenced taxi, and the murder suspect husband.
WELL OK, MAYBE EVEN ZERO?
- 25min 55sec
Mbolombo: “Tongo’s phone rings, and he said to me this is the guy on the phone. All I could hear was Tongo saying, ‘Yah I’m on my way, I’m on my way’. And then he puts the phone down and he says “Eish, this guy does not trust me.”
- 26min 3sec
Jeremy Vine: “Yet the phone records in the police files reveal Shrien Dewani made no such call to Tongo.”
Really? That still doesn’t make Mbolombo a liar. Mbolombo reports Tongo saying this is “the guy”. He doesn’t say “Shrien”. It is Vine who suggests that “the guy” is “Shrien”. The time of the call, in the early afternoon, and the reported content, strongly suggest that the caller was actually Qwabe.
Following the call, Tongo did not go to meet Shrien Dewani, but he did meet Qwabe and Mngeni in Khayelitsha. Tongo says “I’m on my way”, and shortly afterwards, heads to Khayelitsha and meets with Qwabe and Mngeni. This is not complicated. Yet Vine, who has all the telephone records in his possession, and who therefore knows who did make the call, conceals that information, and suggests that Mbolombo is a liar, because it wasn’t Shrien.
Tongo’s mother is reported in the Daily Mail of 5 January 2011:
Tongo’s mother, Liziwe, is convinced her son — who has five children, all by different women, and was badly in debt — told the truth in court.
“Zola had never been in trouble. Why did this Englishman come to our country and tempt him?”, she asked me bitterly, speaking for the first time this week. “He has ruined our lives.”
Shrien Dewani and his team’s lack of concern for Anni’s death is reflected in their focus. Tongo doesn’t go from being a “nice guy” to being a “murderer who killed my beautiful wife”. There is not much focus on his murder confession at all. Only to him being “a liar”.
3 Different Accounts
3 different accounts have so far been given of how Dewani met the taxi driver Tongo.
The Telegraph of 7 Dec 2010 said “Tongo, a limousine driver who offered himself for private hire, had been booked by Mr Dewani’s secretary to take the couple to the luxury Cape Race hotel.”
Dewani’s own family are then quoted in The Independent newspaper on 19 Dec 2010:
Question from journalist: “Did he pre-book the taxi before to be sure that they were picked up the alleged conspirators?
Family’s answer: “Definitely not. He considered pre-booking the Cape Grace Hotel car. Instead he picked up a taxi at the airport. Zola Robert Tongo was chosen because he drove a Mercedes.”
Its a fact that Tongo drove a VW Sharan, as shown on CCTV when he first arrived with the couple at the Cape Grace Hotel. He didnt have a Mercedes.
On 20 Dec 2010 Dewani’s family then claimed in the Bristol Post newspaper:
“They chose Tongo because he spoke fluent English and his car was in good condition.”
Incredibly, Panorama have gone so far as to alter the audio tape of Shrien’s interview to conform with that claim. If you want proof that the audio has been doctored, listen for the two distinctive “knock” sounds in the background, just before Dewani says the word “secure” – listen to the original and altered versions at Example #1 HERE
So just on the small question of how did Dewani meet Tongo, 3 different answers have been provided by the Dewani family.
These and the other discrepancies are plain to see and expose yet again Jeremy Vine’s bias and willingness to distort facts in order to falsely accuse and besmirch the reputations of the key witnesses against Shrien Dewani – just as Dewani’s PR and legal team have been doing.