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Durban - The truck that ploughed into four taxis and cars on Field’s Hill last week, killing 22 people, “had faulty brakes”, according to KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Willies Mchunu, who said the owner of the truck would be held accountable.
Mchunu was speaking in KwaNdengezi, near Pinetown, during a memorial service for the dead on Wednesday.
The driver of the truck, Sanele May, has been arrested and charged with 22 counts of murder.
In an emotional speech, Mchunu recalled how he arrived at the accident scene and immediately knew that the driver of the truck must have done something wrong or something was wrong with the truck.
“As soon as I saw the truck, I instructed my officials to wake up the vehicle assessors in Westmead so they could test the brakes immediately,” he said.
“They got there very quickly and it did not take long before they informed me that the truck had faulty brakes prior to the accident.”
He said he believed the truck owner must have known about the faulty brakes and must be held accountable.
“Once we are ready, he will be facing a lot (of) questions and we will want answers,” he told The Mercury.
It was unclear if there were additional faults with the truck as investigations were still under way.
Mchunu was considering a variety of options, including several public calls to ban trucks on Field’s Hill.
But he maintained that he would need to look at the social and economic consequences of this and consult all the relevant parties, including truck associations.
Mchunu said his officials found out that the driver had been travelling from Joburg.
“All the way from Johannesburg he used the N3 but then, when he arrives in Durban with that faulty truck, he decided to use Field’s Hill.”
The N3 had been improved over the years, specifically for trucks, Mchunu said.
“If the driver is tired, he can pull over and sleep on the side of the road or, if he feels something is wrong with the truck, on the N3 he can reach a place for help. But they insist on taking the Kloof exit.”
Although the truck had defective brakes, Mchunu wanted to know how the accident happened.
He had informed the national Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters that he would try to change the law, if he had to, to prevent such an accident from happening again.
Hundreds of people packed the tent and the sombre mood could be felt even from outside.
The service was attended by Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo, eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo, his deputy Nomvuzo Shabalala, taxi associations and family and friends of the deceased.
In the front row, where families were seated, a woman covered her face with her hands - battling to hold back her tears.
Mchunu, who is mourning the death of his wife’s sister, has asked Dhlomo to attend the funeral of the 22 people on his behalf on Friday.
The South African Road Federation on Thursday called for owners of unroadworthy vehicles to be charged with criminal negligence for allowing the vehicles on the road. It also called for the “enforcement of the law” in respect of heavy vehicles through more visible road policing”.