The parents of Thomas Ferreira said they hope the guilty verdict against the blue-light driver who left their son brain damaged because of his reckless driving will change the way the VIP unit operates.
Joseph Motsamai Semitjie, an SAPS VIP Protection Unit officer, was found guilty in the Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on charges of reckless or negligent driving, malicious damage to property, failure to provide assistance to the injured at an accident, and inflicting injuries.
Magistrate Abdul Khan found Semitjie had not taken the safety of his passengers and other road users into regard when he went through the intersection while the lights were red.
Semitjie said during the trial that the reason he skipped the lights was that the VIP he was driving, former Gauteng housing and local government MEC Humphrey Mmemezi, was late for a meeting.
“We are glad,” Thomas’s father, Paul Ferreira, said of the judgment.
“It shows that all the proof was there and justice has been served.”
He said he hoped this would curb incidents of crashes where blue-light vehicles are involved.
“It’s not going to make a difference to Thomas. We just hope it can help in the future and that it won’t happen to other people.
“It’s unfortunate for us that it was our son,” he said.
Thomas’s mother, Priscilla, agreed but said the verdict could not reverse the damage done to Thomas, who she said would never be the same.
Paul Ferreira said his son still requires constant supervision and ongoing treatment, and often gets depressed.
He had lost many of his friends as he “is not the same person he used to be”, his father said.
Thomas was on his motorbike on his way to visit his girlfriend in November 2011 when he was hit at the intersection by the left side of the white BMW X5 VIP car.
Howard Dembovsky, the chairman of the Justice Project South Africa, called for Semitjie’s driving licence to be suspended for at least one year and for a prison sentence.
During the trial, it emerged that Semitjie had failed his advanced driving course twice.
“The accused was aware that he also lacked the skills to execute the manoeuvres he did at the time,” Khan said on Tuesday.
Dembovsky said the only way to rein in VIP drivers who disobey traffic regulations was to make an example of Semitjie.
“My sincere hope is that magistrate Khan sentences him to a term in jail,” he said.
State prosecutor Micky Thesner asked for a postponement in order to arrange medical experts to testify, in aggravation of sentence, on Thomas’s current condition.
The case was postponed to March 13.
Semitjie and his lawyer, Moses Rankoa, both declined to comment outside of court.