Johannesburg - The man accused of drinking and recklessly driving the car that crashed, causing the death of Nelson Mandela’s great-granddaughter Zenani, 13, was acquitted of all charges against him on Tuesday morning.
But instead of celebrating the decision made by the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court, Sizwe Mankazana, 25, and his family were overcome with emotion.
Mankazana said he did not feel the acquittal was a reason to be joyful: “Twenty-nine months ago, little Zenani was taken from us. I lost someone I loved as a niece. I am thankful that all those who loved Zenani now know the circumstances surrounding her death.”
Mankazana’s father, Zwelakhe, who has stood by his son’s side since the trial started in April, said: “There’s justice in this country.”
Members of the Mandela family, who had also been in court during the trial, left the court quickly on Tuesday, not speaking to the media.
Mankazana, his cousin Stacey-Lee Louters and Zenani Mandela were returning from the World Cup kick-off concert in the early hours of June 11, 2010, when the accident happened on the M1 North.
Mankazana’s Mercedes-Benz hit a damaged Armco barrier and he lost control of the car.
Mankazana and Louters were not injured, but Zenani died.
Mankazana was charged with culpable homicide, driving under the influence of liquor, and reckless and negligent driving.
He pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Three weeks ago Mankazana applied for charges against him to be dropped and magistrate Vivian Hawkins granted the discharge on Tuesday.
In his judgment, Hawkins said the State had not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.
He said two expert witnesses in the case had conceded that “it was a freak accident”, but had also admitted to making mistakes.
Hawkins added that there was no indication that Mankazana was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident, or that he drove negligently.
Mankazana’s lawyer, Kenny Oldwage, said his client had been “through a horrid time” and had taken a lot of unnecessary strain since the accident.
Oldwage said Mankazana should never have been prosecuted, and that the State had based its case on statements of witnesses that were contradictory.