Durban - An Emkhomazi taxi driver, who has been charged with culpable homicide in connection with a horror crash in which 15 people died, is a convicted rapist and was found guilty of traffic offences last year.
This was heard on Tuesday when Gcina Langa, 32, appeared briefly in the Scottburgh Magistrate’s Court.
National Transport Deputy Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga, who was seated in the public gallery when Langa appeared, said the department wanted the charges against Langa to be changed from culpable homicide to murder.
Besides facing 15 counts of culpable homicide, Langa has also been charged with drunk driving, driving without a licence and driving without a public driving permit.
He allegedly lost control of the taxi he was driving and it crashed into a stationary truck after crashing through the boom gate of the Sappi Saiccor plant in eMkhomazi.
A total of 11 of the people killed were women returning home from work.
Langa was expected to apply for bail on Tuesday but abandoned the application.
State prosecutor Christelle Rossouw said the State was opposed to bail and that if Langa brought a bail application later he would have to prove that it was in the “interests of justice” that he be released.
Langa, who previously denied that he had committed other crimes, admitted on Tuesday that he had been convicted of rape in 2007 and had been given an eight-year sentence, which was wholly suspended.
He also told the court he had been arrested at a roadblock last year for unpaid traffic fines and other traffic violations, but was released after he paid a R1 000 fine. The traffic violations included driving with an expired public driving permit and without a safety belt.
Speaking outside court, Chikunga, who flew to KwaZulu-Natal from Pretoria just to attend the case, said she had come to court because the ministry was opposed to Langa’s being granted bail.
“It is very worrying that a person like Langa, who was allegedly drunk and had no licence or PDP ( public driving permit) on him, was allegedly given an unroadworthy vehicle to drive. Fifteen people are dead and four people were injured. One young girl, who wanted to be a nurse, had her arm amputated. This is typical of what happens when people take the law for granted.”
She added that authorities were investigating how the taxi owner allegedly obtained a roadworthy certificate in the Eastern Cape. The vehicle allegedly had faulty brakes.
“We want the owner to explain why he took the taxi to the Eastern Cape to get a certificate. He must point out which official helped him and both of them must be held responsible. Corruption could have cost people their lives in this case.”
She urged road users to be patient, vigilant and courteous.
The case was adjourned to December 18 for further investigation.