Jub Jub's Mini at the scene of the accident. Image: Matthews Baloyi.
Jub Jub's Mini at the scene of the accident. Image: Matthews Baloyi.
File photo of the road where the Jub Jub accident took place. Image: Tiro Ramatlhatse.
File photo of the road where the Jub Jub accident took place. Image: Tiro Ramatlhatse.

This may not be the first time that a driver has been charged with murder for causing a fatal accident, but the Jub Jub case clearly shows that the courts are continuing to take the hardest possible line against reckless drivers.

On Tuesday the Protea Magistrate's Court found rapper Molemo Maarohanye (Jub Jub) and Themba Tshabalala guilty on four counts of murder and two of attempted murder for an accident in which four school children were killed and two were seriously injured.

The court concluded that the pair had been drag racing on a public road while under the influence of drugs.

Here's where it gets tricky as one could perhaps accuse the State of bending the definition of murder as it is hard to conceive, let alone prove, that any driver actually intended to kill innocent bystanders.

Granted, they were reckless to the highest degree and their actions did cause death and suffering.

But why charge them with murder rather than manslaughter?

Justice department Mthunzi Mhaga could have shed some light on this topic in a statement after the judgement:

“We commend the National Prosecuting Authority's aggressive stance of charging irresponsible drivers with murder instead of the usual culpable homicide, which usually attracts non-custodial sentences.”

Handing down a more serious charge, then, is not just a way of sensationalising the case, but also a means of ensuring that harsher punishments - in the form of long jail sentences - are meted out to reckless drivers that cause the tragedy that unfolds on South Africa's roads every day.

It's a huge wake-up call for the South African motorist.

It's a tragedy for the families that lost their children, a tragedy for the injured children and now it's a tragedy for Maarohanye and Tshabalala.

If judgements like these succeed at reminding South African motorists that the vehicles they drive everyday, often without thinking twice about it, are really no different to loaded guns, then perhaps something positive can come out of this tragedy.

Perhaps it's time for some to realise that reckless driving AND driving under the influence are no longer the 'light' offences that can just be bragged about the next day.

It's also unlikely that this judgement is going to be a once-off.

Earlier this year Cape Town minibus taxi driver Jacob Humphreys was sentenced to 20 years in jail for causing the deaths of 10 children when he drove over a shut level crossing and collided with a train.

Also this year, the driver of a farm truck that was hit by a train at a level crossing in Mpumalanga - killing 25 farm workers - has been charged with murder.

At the end of the Humphreys case, Judge Henney explained the murder conviction by saying he could not think of a better example of a person being able to foresee the consequences of their actions than when Humphreys zig-zagged through the level crossing after the booms had shut.

The argument is unlikely to be very different when Maarohanye and Tshabalala are sentenced at the end of November.

Source: Sapa