R5 000 for a child’s life

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Copy of Copy of NM Verulam 3 grader

THE MERCURY

Clothing items of the four children who were killed by a tractor are placed next to candles.

Durban - Five thousand rand. That’s the amount offered by multimillion-rand company Aqua Transport Plant Hire (Pty) Ltd for each of the four children killed when they were run over by the company’s grader.

But the grieving mothers will have none of it, saying throwing money at them during their time of bereavement will never bring back their children.

On March 25, a speeding grader weighing 18 000kg crushed cousins Hlengiwe, 11, Zanele and Langelihle, both 4, and Busisani, 2, from the Magwaza family in Ndwedwe, north of Durban.

Aqua Transport, which is owned by Kloof brothers Kevin and Donovan Naicker, is constructing P521, a provincial road that links Ndwedwe to Pietermaritzburg.

Hlengiwe, a Grade 6 pupil, had picked up her cousins – Busisani, Langelihle and Zanele – from Silindokuhle crèche as she always always did after school.

On their way home, the children were run over by the grader, which apparently rounded a sharp bend in the gravel road and ploughed into them. Zanele, Langelihle and Hlengiwe were killed instantly, while Busisani died at Osindisweni Hospital later. The children were buried last Sunday.

Their mothers, wearing black scarves, said the company’s actions were disrespectful.

Buyile Magwaza, 33, Zanele’s mother, said: “They came here and said they were from Aqua, and they wanted to compensate us, as we will never see our children again.

“They brought an envelope with R20 000 cash and said it was to help with the funeral arrangements, but we respectfully declined the money.”

Langelihle’s mother, Zinhle, 22, said: “We didn’t take their money. The way they did everything was very disrespectful towards the family. The company needs to apologise properly. They can’t just bring an envelope full of money and expect things to be okay.”

The driver of the grader, a 47-year-old Zimbabwean whose name is known to the Sunday Tribune, is believed to have fled the country.

Police on Thursday appealed for information on his whereabouts.

Provincial police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane said the driver faces four counts of culpable homicide, reckless and negligent driving and failing to render assistance after an accident.

The driver was allegedly living on a property with the local induna, who would only give his name as Magwaza.

Magwaza confirmed that the grader had been parked on his premises.

“I got a call from the company foreman asking me to find accommodation for the driver. And that’s what I did. I have not seen him since the accident,” said Magwaza.

Zandile Magwaza, 29, Hlengiwe’s mother, said Magwaza had brought the company’s representatives to their house.

“They came here with the same induna that had given this driver an RDP house when we don’t even have RDP houses.

“They didn’t even tell the community that there is a construction project in the area.

“I want the driver to be arrested and the company to apologise, because these kids had a bright future and we will never see them again,” Magwaza said angrily.

Ward councillor Go Ngcobo said the community suspected the driver was speeding. He is also alleged to have been drunk at the time of the accident.

“The construction began in late February. The driver was on his way to park the grader at the local induna’s house. I can tell you that he was speeding, because he always sped when he drove down that sharp bend,” said Ngcobo.

He said he saw two beer bottles in the grader. “He is someone who used to drink,” said Ngcobo.

A police source, who cannot be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media, confirmed that beer bottles were found in the vehicle.

“I am still traumatised by what I saw at the scene. I knew those tiny bodies would not have survived. And the worst part of it is that the foreman refused to co-operate and at the time said the company had nothing to do with the deaths.”

Spokeswoman for Aqua Transport Sagree Gounden said: “The R20 000 that we offered the family was to assist with the funeral expenses.

“The family, however, provided us with a list of items they needed for the funeral, which we purchased and delivered to them.”

Buyile confirmed that groceries were given to the family.

Gounden said the company was still in talks with the family and would continue to assist them.

She said: “Aqua have co-operated fully with the investigation. The investigating officers have requested that we do not divulge any information until their investigation is finalised,” she said.

Aqua Transport, which has secured several lucrative tenders, including a number for Eskom’s Medupi power station and the Gautrain, is embroiled in a R263 million tender scandal.

It is alleged that a tender was irregularly awarded to the company by Johannesburg waste company Pikitup.

 

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