Durban - Field’s Hill claimed two more victims on Friday, an elderly woman crushed under a truck and Sanele May, the driver of a truck that killed 24 people last year. He was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.
Authorities say attention will now turn to Gregory Govender, the owner of the allegedly unroadworthy truck that May was driving at the time of last year’s Field’s Hill accident.
The National Prosecuting Authority recognised May’s sentencing as a milestone.
“Now that this matter regarding Sanele May has been finalised, we will be considering our options,” KwaZulu-Natal’s head of the authority, Moipone Noko said.
Nthombi Duma, who survived the crash, said she and others would be really happy when they dealt with the truck owner. “Sanele is not a big fish,” she said.
While May was in court awaiting sentence, another motorist was killed on the same road when a truck carrying concrete blocks apparently hit a tow truck before colliding with the light motor vehicle. An elderly woman passenger died when the truck overturned and the concrete blocks fell on top of her vehicle, said Netcare spokesman Chris Botha.
Her daughter who had been driving, survived but with injuries. The accident happened at about 9.45am.
“It was an awful accident,” he said. “I had this dear lady (the daughter) in my arms, absolutely broken.”
Botha said their car had spun around and that it was facing the opposite direction when the concrete blocks landed on its roof.
All vehicles involved in the accident had been heading downhill towards Pinetown.
Kloof’s Democratic Alliance councillor Rick Crouch, who has been campaigning for stricter rules for trucks on Field’s Hill, said that had Transport MEC Willis Mchunu been more firm, the elderly woman “would be alive”.
He asked how hard it was for the MEC to ban all heavy trucks from Field’s Hill, except those doing local deliveries, rather than only prohibit them at peak hours.
“What’s needed is for the community to go as a whole and toyi-toyi outside the legislature in Pietermaritzburg, as happened with (Berea) Rovers. There will be power in numbers. It’s across the race line. Everybody is against trucks on Field’s Hill.”
On social media many reacted with anger, asking how many more must die before trucks were banned from Field’s Hill.
Passing sentence on May, Judge Kathy Pillay noted that heavy trucks often used Field’s Hill to avoid paying tolls at the Mariannhill Toll Plaza. “Drivers are instructed very often to use the M13 for this very purpose.”
Crouch said it was actually the weigh bridge close to the toll gate that the trucks were avoiding.
“They are not avoiding the tolls. They are overloaded, just like Sanele May’s truck.”
Coincidentally Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said on Friday her department was looking at restricting heavy vehicles during rush hour on Gauteng’s heavily used routes. There would be broad consultation on the matter.
Meanwhile, May’s supporters said they would continue to support him during his incarceration.
“We are going to help him to finish school in prison so that he leaves jail a stronger man,” said Peach Piche who heads the group.
May pleaded guilty to 24 counts of culpable homicide, two charges of fraud, one charge of entering South Africa illegally, two charges of being in possession of fake driver’s licences, one charge of operating a vehicle without a valid professional driving permit, and one charge of failing to comply with a road traffic sign.
On the evening of September 5 last year, in rush-hour traffic, May’s truck smashed into four minibus taxis and two cars at an intersection at the bottom of Field’s Hill in Pinetown. Twenty-two people died at the scene. Two died later in hospital.
May has been in custody ever since. He was denied bail in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court.
Initially, he was charged with 24 counts of murder, but this was changed to culpable homicide charges.
He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for each of the culpable homicide convictions, with five years suspended.
He was also sentenced to one year for violating the immigration laws and four years for each of the traffic and licence violations.
All the sentences are to run concurrently and the 14 months May has been in custody were taken into account.
“The effective sentence is one of eight years and 10 months. With good behaviour that could be reduced by a third or more,” said Pillay.
She said she believed May was remorseful and had “demonstrated contrition for his actions”.