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Durban - The original driver of the bus that crashed after the Reed Dance, killing seven maidens and two guardians, was arrested as the bus left Enyokeni Palace in Nongoma because he was suspected of being drunk.
A replacement driver was found and the bus, destined for Mzumbe, near Hibberdene on the South Coast, was allowed to continue.
This was confirmed by Transport MEC Willies Mchunu on Monday. Mchunu said the driver had been taken to Nongoma police station and charged.
Initially it was announced that the replacement driver, Menzi Bhengu, 23, died on his way to Ngwelezane Hospital in Empangeni.
However, Mchunu told mourners who gathered in the uMlalazi council chamber in Eshowe for a prayer meeting, that Bhengu was still fighting for his life.
“The weather was clear and there was no rain,” said Mchunu.
He believed speed might have been a factor in the crash, saying that there were long scratches on the road. “The company that owns the bus will also have to take responsibility because it was discovered that its brake system was faulty,” Mchunu said.
The accident happened near the intersection of the R66 and R34 at about 5.45pm on Sunday.
The injured and dead had attended the annual event, also known as Umkhosi woMhlanga.
Mchunu said Bhengu had been among 13 who sustained serious injuries. The victims were sent to Eshowe and Ngwelezane hospitals. He said 25 others were slightly injured, while 17 were treated for shock.
Members of the provincial parliament, traditional leaders and councillors from Ugu District Municipality and uMlalazi Municipality attended the prayer meeting.
Arts and Culture MEC Nombikayise Sabhidla Saphetha wept throughout. The maidens and their minders were travelling on the bus, belonging to the Malundi bus service, from Port Shepstone.