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Johannesburg - Former Gauteng MEC Humphrey Mmemezi told his VIP unit driver to use the car’s blue lights because he was already 40 minutes late for a meeting, which was described as an emergency in court on Wednesday.
This was at 9.40am on November 5, 2011. Twenty minutes later, the car would collide with Thomas Ferreira, leaving the Krugersdorp matric pupil brain damaged.
The blue-light driver, Joseph Semitjie, was cross-examined in the Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, where he has been charged with reckless and negligent driving as well as a failure to assist an injured person, causing injuries and malicious damage to property.
Semitjie was driving the former local government and housing MEC when he collided with Ferreira. He told the court they had left Mmemezi’s home 40 minutes after he was expected for a 9am meeting.
State prosecutor Micky Thesner questioned why Semitjie felt that being late for a meeting was reason enough to put on the car’s blue lights and siren and skip a red traffic light, when VIP drivers are permitted to do so only in life-threatening circumstances.
“He (Mmemezi) indicated to us ‘Do you realise I’m late? Let’s go’,” Semitjie said.
Thesner repeatedly asked Semitjie if being late was the reason for emergency procedures, and on one occasion said he needed to give the court “a straight answer”.
“Was your emergency that the MEC was running late?” she finally asked.
“To summarise, yes,” he replied.
However, Semitjie said Mmemezi had not directly instructed him to skip the traffic lights, but was told by the former MEC to turn on the blue lights.
Semitjie also claimed it was common to use the vehicle’s blue lights and that the VIP drivers’ superiors had instructed them to do so when transporting MECs.
Semitjie said Ferreira should be blamed for the crash.
“My comment is that there wouldn’t have been an accident if the motorbike (driven by Ferreira) used the lane he was supposed to,” Semitjie said, later adding that if Ferreira was travelling at a “low speed”, he would have seen him.
Through the course of the day, he admitted he had gone through a red light and was driving on a yellow line.
But Semitjie disputed an accident report referred to by Thesner that indicated he was travelling at 75km/h when he entered the intersection.
Semitjie maintained he had driven cautiously at below 20km/h through the intersection, and used the siren to warn other cars of his approach.