Taking the stand for the first time, Xolile Mngeni, 25, told the High Court in Cape Town that his interrogators had put an evidence bag filled with pepper spray in his face and squeezed his genitals in a drawer while questioning him after his arrest.
The police “took off my pants and my underwear… squeezed (my genitals into) the drawer and closed it. They were telling me what to say,” he testified, saying that the police had wanted him to say he was present during the killing.
“When I refused… they were assaulting me. Then I ended up admitting.”
Mngeni has pleaded not guilty to Dewani’s killing and told the court that he had spent the night of the November 13 murder with his girlfriend.
He also denied having discussed the routes to be taken by the tourists ahead of the attack. Two fellow accused, already jailed over the killing, have claimed the murder was a paid hit that was staged as a hijacking.
Their plea bargains have implicated Dewani’s British husband Shrien in orchestrating his wife’s death, and prosecutors are fighting to have him extradited to stand trial in South Africa.
Mngeni denied several claims by his co-accused Mziwamadoda Qwabe, who was jailed for 25 years for his role and who named Mngeni as the gunman in his plea bargain.
“He is lying,” Mngeni repeatedly said Monday.
The claims of police abuse were raised by the defence earlier in the trial and were shot down by testifying police officers.
Mngeni said the abuse had happened in a basement with blood on the floor and that a gun had been put in his mouth in a follow-up interrogation.
Another accused, the couple’s taxi driver Zola Tongo, is also serving 18 years in his own plea bargain over his role in arranging the murder.
Britain approved Dewani’s extradition but the London High Court shelved the process in March, citing health concerns. The Briton has claimed he is innocent.