High Court Reporter
MINUTES after his brief appearance in the Pretoria High Court yesterday, Sibusiso Langa, the man who ploughed into a group of runners in Midrand, killing five of them, apologised to the families of the victims.
“I regret what happened. I feel it every day of my life,” the engineer, 44, told the media outside court.
He said he had wanted to meet the sixth jogger, Khanyisa Stengile, whose leg was broken, to apologise to her. But he could not as she was one of the State’s main witnesses.
His trial is standing down until Thursday, as his counsel was not ready to proceed.
The court was packed with relatives and friends of the victims, who loudly expressed their dissatisfaction in court when the defence asked for a postponement.
Stengile, who wore a T-shirt bearing a picture of some of the victims, was not happy. “I am upset that they came unprepared. It shows how complacent they are and how lightly they are taking it (the court case).”
She said it was a difficult time for her and the family of the victims. “We are forced to relive the events and you psyche yourself up, only to hear it does not proceed. This delaying just adds to our anguish.”
It also came to light during yesterday’s proceedings that Langa wanted to enter into a plea-bargain agreement with the State, but that his proposal was not acceptable.
Judge Sulette Potterill was told that Langa’s legal team only submitted the plea-bargain proposal to the office of the director of public prosecutions (DPP) last month. That was after the DPP indicated that the proposal be sent in last October.
Another reminder was sent in December, but the proposal only got to the DPP’s office on January 31 this year. The proposal was rejected. The judge was told that the State did not receive any response after that.
Langa’s advocate, Richard Mkhabela, said he had not prepared for the trial as he had been instructed to “work on the plea so that the matter could be settled”.
Although he had consulted Langa, Mkhabela said he had not consulted any of the defence witnesses. He indicated that Langa identified at least four witnesses who would be able to assist him in his case.
Mkhabela said one of Langa’s bail conditions – that he not drive on public roads – was hampering his defence. He explained that Langa had difficulty in consulting with his legal team and could not transport his witnesses.
Mkhabela wanted a postponement until next week, but the State opposed that on the grounds that Langa and his team had known of the trial date since last May and had the complete case docket by October.
Judge Potterill said she was only prepared to let the matter stand down until Thursday.
She said it was “totally unacceptable” that the defence did not prepare for the trial, while knowing about it for almost a year.
She also amended Langa’s bail conditions, allowing him to drive his car in Gauteng.
Langa is facing nine charges, including five of murder, one of attempted murder and one of drunk driving.
It follows an incident in October 2011 when his Mercedes ML500 ploughed into the group of runners who were preparing for the Soweto Marathon.
Moroese Mokoatsi, 34, Reneilwe Lesenyetho, 31, Given Mills, 30, Isaac Thale, 37 and Nomvula Dumako, 35, were killed.