Pretoria - Moments after a Pretoria North magistrate found a 33-year-old man guilty of culpable homicide for an accident in which two Christian Motorcyclists Association members died in 2010, he urged relatives and friends of the men to forgive the accused as forgiveness would aid healing.
But an hour after magistrate Ben van Schalkwyk’s words of encouragement, Christa Coetzee – who lost her husband in the accident and is helping to care for her son, who lost a leg – said she was not yet ready to forgive Indi Chiyabu from Zambia.
Chiyabu, who is from Doran-dia, faced six charges, including murder, alternatively culpable homicide, and contravention of the Road Traffic Act for leaving the accident scene and not assisting the injured.
He was found guilty on two counts of culpable homicide, instead of murder, as it could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt that he had intended to kill. The only charge he was not found guilty on was that of not assisting the injured. The magistrate found he would not have known how to treat the injured.
Chiyabu, driving a Hummer, smashed into Johannes Kruger, 32, and Pieter Coetzee, 60, and Coetzee’s son, Pieter jr, in the early hours of October 16, 2010.
The Hummer burst into flames shortly after the crash and Chiyabu fled the scene.
The magistrate said it was clear that Chiyabu had been speeding because the Hummer came to a standstill 44m from the point of impact – with one of the bikes under its front wheel.
In aggravation of sentence, Coetzee jr testified how the accident had changed his life emotionally and financially.
Coetzee, a clerk at the Department of Agriculture, said the accident had robbed him not only of his father, but also of his best friend as he and his father had been close. An emotional Coetzee testified that he could not attend his father’s funeral as he was in hospital because of his extensive injuries.
A report by Dr JD Erlank indicated a skull fracture and partial loss of vision in his left eye. Coetzee also had a sinus fracture and, after his leg was amputated, he had to go back to hospital several times because of sepsis in the stump.
He said although he had a prosthetic leg, he could not use it. The damage to his leg had been so severe that his hip had been fractured. He could not yet put pressure on the hip.
The accident had affected his self-esteem as people pitied him, he said.
He had not yet received the payout due from his third party insurance claim, but a life policy had helped to cover his medical bills, he testified. He could also not return to work yet.
In a statement, Chiyabu admitted to driving on the wrong side of Rachel de Beer Street, Pretoria North, on that day. He was returning from Lynnwood, where he had picked up friends after their matric dance.
While driving down Rachel de Beer Street, he heard a noise at the back of the vehicle and looked back to try to establish what caused it. During this time he swerved into the opposite side of the road, smashing into Kruger, Coetzee and Coetzee’s son, who were on their way to a prayer meeting.
He said he fled because people ran to the scene and he became scared. He handed himself over to the Pretoria North police five days later.
During a short recess, Koos Els, regional president of the Gauteng North bikers club, handed Chiyabu a book, Hope for the Highway. It is the Christian Motorcyclists Association’s version of a Bible and contains the New Testament.
When the hearing resumed, investigating officer Werner van den Berg testified in aggravation of sentence. He said Chiyabu went to Polokwane after the accident and he could not reach him. Chiyabu told him his cellphone had been destroyed in the crash, but cellphone records proved he had made and received calls after the accident.
The passengers in Chiyabu’s Hummer had met at a friend’s house afterwards and decided not to report the accident.
Chiyabu, who had been out on warning, was taken into custody. He will hear his fate on March 14.