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Durban - Sanele May might be on trial for the murder of 22 people, but the young man from Swaziland is being treated with compassion and kindness by many in the world of social media.
May, 23, was the driver of the truck that ploughed through traffic at an intersection on Field’s Hill, Pinetown, last Thursday, leaving four loaded taxis destroyed in its wake.
But a single act of kindness has sparked a wave of support online for him. The Sanele May Support Group had more than 1 000 members by Wednesday night, all of whom have posted hundreds of messages of support for May, from wishing him strength, to calling for the owner of the truck to be charged for the accident.
The group was formed after a post by a “concerned citizen”, who did not want to be named, who has been visiting May in his cell since Monday.
“He is broken… shattered. He asked why God didn’t let him die rather,” she told The Mercury on Wednesday after visiting May.
She did not know why she had decided to visit May, but an “overwhelming desire to help him” had driven her.
On her first visit she had gone empty-handed, but subsequently had taken food and clothing – some of which was donated by other concerned people – for May.
She had also arranged for a counsellor to visit him and talk to him about the accident.
The gift May cherished most, though, were messages of support from members of the public she had printed out and given to him.
“He thinks everyone hates him and he can’t believe there are people out there supporting him,” she said.
“I want to say thank you to the community for the support.
“I would like to emphasise, though, that this is by no means meant to dilute what the families of the victims of the crash are feeling,” she said, adding she was only there to help May in his time of need.
Those who had lost family members in the crash had varying feelings about May and the support he was receiving.
“I cannot entirely blame the driver; they are given the trucks to drive and they need money for survival, so they would take the truck even if they knew it had something wrong,” said Sibonelo Ndlovu, who lost three cousins and a taxi he owned in the accident. Ndlovu added that the owner of the truck should be held responsible, too.
Doris Nompula, the mother of 21-year-old Ntombifuthi Nompula, said “whoever was responsible had to pay”.
“We are busy with burial preparations, but afterwards we will follow the case.”
Msizi Shozi, son of Sandile Shozi who died, however, said following the case would not be helpful for him.
“I don’t even want to speak about the driver, whether he is found guilty or not; it won’t make any difference, my father is already dead,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the National Prosecuting Authority, Natasha Ramkisson, said they had not yet reached a decision on whether the truck’s owner, Gregory Govender, would be charged.
“The investigation is still ongoing, and we are not ruling out that possibility,” she said.
Other online groups formed after the accident include Ban Trucks on M13-Fields Hill, which had just under 4 500 likes on Wednesday evening.
The online community site Avaaz.org posted its own petition to ban trucks on the M13, which had 7 700 digital signatures. A group aiming to stage a protest on Field’s Hill against trucks had also been formed on Facebook, with Ban the Heavies on Field’s Hill Protest and Vigil soliciting almost 600 “going” replies.