CAPE TOWN, South Africa – The South African man accused of shooting a Swedish bride to death on her honeymoon suffers from blackouts and seizures, his defense lawyer said Monday, as a judge scheduled his trial for later in the week.
Xolile Mngeni appeared in a court in Cape Town on Monday and at times hid his face under a green-and-white jacket.
Judge Robert Henney ordered his trial to begin Wednesday over the slaying of 28-year-old Anni Dewani. Mngeni, whom prosecutors say was hired by Dewani's British husband to carry out the November 2010 killing, faces murder, robbery, kidnapping and illegal gun possession charges over her death.
Mngeni's poor health has slowed his trial over the slaying and he entered court Monday using a walker and helped by police officers. Mngeni had surgery to remove a brain tumor in June 2011 and now has problems remembering things, defense lawyer Qalisile Dayimani said.
"When he gets blackouts, he tends to sleep," Dayimani said. "We can't say if he has been listening" at hearings.
Despite Mngeni's poor health, Dayimani said the trial should be able to go on.
"We want to get through this," the lawyer said. "Everybody wants (a) finale. It has been two years."
Last week, Mngeni's alleged accomplice Mziwamadoda Qwabe pleaded guilty to charges over the killing, receiving a 25-year prison sentence. Zola Tongo, the taxi driver that police say husband Shrien Dewani asked to plot the killing, earlier pleaded guilty to charges over the slaying and received an 18-year prison sentence. Both Tongo and Qwabe have said Dewani wanted it to look like he wasn't involved his wife's slaying and they planned to have the attack look like a car hijacking in Cape Town's impoverished Gugulethu township.
Dewani has denied he hired anyone to kill his wife and was allowed by authorities to leave South Africa for the United Kingdom, where he was later arrested. In March, a U.K. High Court ruled that it would be "unjust and oppressive" to extradite Dewani to South Africa, as his mental condition had worsened since his arrest there. Dewani's lawyer told the court in a hearing July 31 that he needed at least a year to recover from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder before being potentially sent back to South Africa.