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Durban - The licence of a truck, involved in an accident that claimed the lives of 22 people in Pinetown, had expired, an official of the KwaZulu-Natal Road Traffic Inspectorate said on Friday.
The official, who identified herself as PN Makhaye, told acting president Jeff Radebe the licence expired on August 31.
She said the owner had been identified, but stressed that owners of heavy duty vehicles did not have the 21-day grace period for expired licences like owners of passenger vehicles.
Radebe visited the accident site on the M13 on Friday, and several hospitals where the injured had been taken.
The truck crashed into four minibus taxis and a car on Thursday night. Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said ten people were critically injured, seven seriously, and 14 sustained minor lacerations.
Video footage of the incident, aired on eNCA, shows the speeding truck obliterating the car and two taxis, which were driving through a green traffic light at an intersection.
Traffic officials said it appeared the brakes on the truck had failed on Fields Hill at 6.30pm during rush hour.
Transport officials initially said the heavy goods truck belonged to Evergreen Trucking, but on Friday it emerged that it did not. The truck was carrying a container belonging to the Taiwanese Evergreen shipping company.
The driver was identified as a 23-year old Swaziland national. He was arrested on Friday and faces multiple charges ranging from culpable homicide to reckless and negligent driving.
KwaZulu-Natal transport MEC Willies Mchunu said truck drivers heading to Durban often attempt to avoid paying toll road fees to save the money for themselves.
“They are trying not to pay toll fees and therefore use that money for personal reasons. We suspect that is what happened in this case,” he said.
The M13 was closed overnight and reopened on Friday.
Two bouquets of flowers were placed at the intersection where the accident took place.
Radebe said: “Our message from government is that we should leave no stone unturned in ensuring those who are guilty of causing such pain must be dealt with, with the full might of the law.”
He urged the judiciary to impose harsh jail terms on traffic offenders instead of a “slap on the wrist”.
He said the “trauma that goes with the tragedy is beyond any pain that one can think of”.
Road accidents cost the country more than R300 million per year, he said.
Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said government was finalising its national transport plan, which was anchored on passenger rail transport.
Peters said apart from punishing guilty drivers it was necessary to punish the owners of trucks involved in such accidents.
In the past week, 80 people had been killed on the country's roads, she said.
“Losing 80 people in seven days is too much.”
On Sunday, 10 people returning from the annual reed dance festival at the Nyokeni Palace were killed in an accident. More than 60 others were injured. - Sapa