Durban - "He is just a little coward. I felt so deeply for him and his family, but he has really played on my emotions.
"We’ve been misled. This is a circus. There is now no peace for my family.”
This was the shocked reaction of Rosa da Silva on hearing Omesh Ramnarian, the alleged killer of her son, Richard da Silva, 46, and Jared Dwyer, 36, would no longer plead guilty to knocking down the two M4 cyclists in February last year.
The deaths of the cyclists caused public outrage.
At a previous hearing Ramnarian, 33, had indicated he would enter a plea bargain with the State, plead guilty and go to jail. He said he needed time to get his affairs in order.
Arriving at court on Friday, expecting to find closure after the trial, the families and friends of the cyclists heard that Ramnarain had changed his mind, fired his advocate Devin Moodley and appointed advocate Murray Pitman to his legal team.
They had anticipated he would be sentenced to 10 years, with some of the jail time suspended.
At an earlier hearing, a tearful Ramnarian had shared an emotional embrace with Da Silva after asking for forgiveness.
During a fracas that erupted after the brief proceedings, the distraught mother confronted prosecutor Herman Mouton, saying she could not understand how the courts could have allowed this situation.
“It’s not my fault. I am not against you,” he replied.
Rosa da Silva reacts to the dramatic proceedings in court
She said the families would go on with no closure to their losses and that they were being tortured.
“This is cruel,” the Durban North businesswoman stressed.
The fracas then spread a few metres away where Ramnarain’s family were mingling with the cyclists’ friends and family.
Ramnarain, who faces charges of culpable homicide and drunken driving, slipped past them, guided by a court orderly before leaving the building.
A man wearing cycling paraphernalia, who said he was a friend of the two fallen cyclists, stared at him fiercely as he passed less than a metre away.
Ramnarain’s father suggested his family “just go inside”. As they backed away, a youthful voice shouted: “He’s a p***. He’s not a man. He’s just a little bitch.”
Richard da Silva’s life partner, Sonja Ferreira, said she had come to court tired after a sleepless night after preparing her victim impact statement as well as compiling a scrapbook as a farewell gift for a colleague who was emigrating.
“What he’s done today says a lot for the kind of character he is. He is so devious, playing with the family’s emotions. I’m not okay with that. I feel like I have been dragged down a gravel path.”
She said her late partner would not have wanted what happened Friday.
“He would have forgiven but it must be with justice,” said Ferreira.
“Jared, too, was a peaceful guy.”
Mim Gerhardt, who like Da Silva and Dwyer is a member of the Kings Park Cycling Club, feared Ramnarain would find a loophole. She now expects to be a witness when the trial gets under way.
Dwyer’s brother, Sierra, called his actions “bulls***”.
“He agreed to a plea bargain. Now he’s pulled out. He’s just delaying things.”
His mother, Lee, who had flown up from Cape Town for several court appearances, including Friday’s, said she had never forgiven him.
The families had expected that after his last hearing at the end of last month Ramnarain just needed time to wind up his affairs, which include a plumbing business in Phoenix, before willingly going to jail.
Before Friday’s proceedings, Rosa da Silva said she had hoped his serving a sentence would be a reminder to South Africans not to drink and drive.
She also said she did not believe hate would get anyone anywhere.
The case was postponed to October 6 and the trial was set down for December 4.
Maharaj extended Ramnarain’s bail of R10 000 to that date.
The Indepdendent on Saturday