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R25 000 - is that the price of a life in SA?

Industry news
A man whose fiancée was killed in the Fields Hill crash four years ago says justice had failed him and their daughter, leaving him believing people with money can get away with murder.

Sthembiso Kweyama, 37, was engaged to Nonhlanhla Nhlabathi, who was in one of the taxis that was ploughed into by a truck owned by Gregory Govender, leaving 24 people dead and many injured.

“There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t think about her; nothing can bring her back, but I was hoping to get justice, especially for my daughter,” said Kweyama.

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The owner of this truck, which killed 24 people, was fined R25 000. File picture: Zanele Zulu.

The taxi driver from KwaNgcolosi, outside Hillcrest, stops every day at the intersection where his then 23-year-old fiancée died.

The truck driver, Sanele May, was sentenced to eight years in jail for his part in the crash, but Govender entered into a plea-bargain and paid a R25 000 fine.

“My daughter is nine. She is growing up now, she is looking more like her mother every day. There are little things that she does that are exactly like her mothers and instead of enjoying watching her grow, I cry when I look at her.”

He said he was too “distraught” to follow the case against Govender, but every time there was a major development he learned about it on the news.

Kweyama said seeing Govender “walk away scot free” added salt to the wounds.

“A fine is not an appropriate punishment. No one even asked us how we felt about it. What will stop this guy (Govender) from starting another trucking company and putting unroadworthy trucks back on the road. And R25 000 is nothing to these guys. Is that the price of a life in South Africa?”

Sole breadwinner

Also left to raise children alone is Nelly Mhlongo, whose husband Stanley was driving one of the taxis hit by the truck. The 53-year-old was the sole breadwinner, with Mhlongo not having worked since they tied the knot decades ago.

“Since he died it has been really difficult to make ends meet. As a taxi driver he had no pension and no life insurance,” said Mhlongo.

She is a single mother of four children, the youngest is six years old.

“I used the R200 000 I got from the Road Accident Fund to complete my husband’s rituals then bought an old taxi. That is what puts food on the table now,” she said.

Her biggest gripe with Govender was that she believes he knowingly hired an inexperienced driver and put him behind the wheel of “a killing machine”.

The majority of the family members of the deceased have stayed in touch through Karen Janisch, founder of Fields Hill Helping Hands.

In a statement posted on the Facebook page, Janisch said: “The families have expressed their grave disappointment and are very angry with the outcome of Govender’s trial.

“Until the families have met and discussed what action they want to take, they will not be making any further statements to the press.”

The Mercury

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