Durban - Too little too late. That is the reaction of one of the victims of socialite Sifiso Zulu who this week tearfully confessed to killing two people while driving while drunk.
Dudu Ngema, who has been left permanently disabled and hobbling along with a stick, said she did not buy his confession to the crash four years ago when Zulu drove his BMW X5 through a red traffic light in Durban and collided with a bakkie carrying 12 congregants from the Soul’s Harbour Ministries Church, resulting in the deaths of two passengers and injuries to 10 others.
While some other victims of his crime have accepted his confession and reconciliatory move, Ngema, 33, believes his sudden remorse is nothing but a ploy for pity from the parole board to get out of jail quicker.
South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD) agree with her.
SADD has called for him to be retried, dealt a harsher sentence for his crimes and be charged with perjury.
Zulu, who this week made a tearful public confession at a Department of Correctional Services KZN Victim-Offender Dialogue in Richards Bay, throughout his trial denied that he was responsible for the horrific accident in 2008.
Third year civil engineering student Sdumisile Mncube and another student Hlengiwe Dlamini were killed in the accident, and the 10 other bakkie passengers were injured.
Zulu had claimed a friend was the driver.
However, the court found him to be the driver and he was sentenced in May to five years – two suspended – for culpable homicide, reckless or negligent driving, failing to stop at a red traffic light and failing to stop after an accident.
According to The Witness newspaper, Zulu told the gathering, which included victims’ families: “I caused the accident that killed two people in 2008. I was drunk and denied everything until the end.” He warned drivers not to drink and drive “because the consequences are bad, lives are lost”.
Mncube’s mother, Nonhlan-hla Mncube, told the gathering that she was happy after four years to finally hear the truth.
Ngema, a personal assistant, sustained a spinal injury in the accident and spent more than four months in hospital and rehabilitation, and now uses a walking stick.
“The pastor from Correctional Services called me and told me he wanted to come and meet me and apologise but I didn’t know what for because, all along, he said he did not cause the accident,” Ngema said.
“I told the pastor that I was not sure what I am going to say to him because he [Zulu] was not at the accident… said he must give me time to think. I am emotional about the whole story. I guess I will have to get over it.”
She said she would consider speaking to him at some stage.
“Obviously, he wants parole, that’s the obvious case, because if he was sorry he would have said sorry from the word go. I think the change of sides is just for parole,” Ngema said.
SADD director Caro Smit said Zulu’s behaviour had been “deplorable” and he should be retried and charged with perjury because he had sworn in court that he was not drunk and that he was not driving.
“He should be retried and given harsher sentences. It’s all very well to say now after all these years that ‘I’m so sorry’ but what about the victims? Obviously what he is trying to do is to get a lighter sentence,” Smit said.
She said the Road Traffic Act allowed for a maximum sentence of nine years for culpable homicide. He should have got 18 years. “It’s good that he apologised but there should also be some financial repercussions,” Smit said.
Department of Correctional Services spokeswoman Nokuthula Zikhali said Zulu’s participation in the programme was a success story. “All the offenders are entitled to this and we are going to roll it out in every centre. Most offenders who come to prison are in denial but in the end when they have been going to these programmes with the social worker they say ‘we did it and we need to make peace,” Zikhali said.
Independent on Saturday