Durban - “His family has been ostracised by society. They have lost their homes, assets and way of life.”
So says Durban attorney Theasen Pillay about his client Gregory Govender, who was fined R25 000 in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court on Monday, closing a chapter on an almost four-year legal drama marked by pain, frustration - and now anger.
An unroadworthy truck owned by Govender’s business ploughed into several vehicles, including laden taxis, at an intersection on Fields Hill in September 2013, killing 24 people. It was one of the city’s most deadly road accidents.
Pillay said Govender was remorseful. “His remorse is genuine. He is an honest and hard working man, whose trust was misplaced. This has been a harsh lesson that he has learnt.”
Pillay said his client was reeling from the repercussions of the accident.
“While people may believe that the fine is a slap on the wrist, this tragedy has cost Mr Govender everything. Not just his assets, his business and his reputation but his very peace.”
But Sanele May, the driver of the truck, was “shocked” when he learnt that Govender, the owner of Sagekal Logistics, received only a fine while he remained behind bars.
Govender had entered into a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to contravening the National Road Traffic Act and was fined R25 000 or two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.
Peach Piche, the founder of the Sanele May Support Group, said she broke the news, on the outcome of Govender’s case, to him on Tuesday.
“I told him the outcome and he was shocked. He sounded disappointed,” said Piche. May knew nothing would set him free or bring back the families loved ones, she said.
May was illegally in the country and in possession of a fake driving licence at the time.
Piche said Govender had never apologised or offered to compensate the families. “It seems like Sanele was the fall guy.”
She said she hoped this would have been a precedent-setting case.
“I had hoped this would send a message to truck owners to ensure their vehicles are roadworthy but a deterrent of R25 000 is not big,” she said.
“We are all on the roads with our families. We don’t want unroadworthy trucks on the roads.”
Pillay said even though the case had ended, his client’s life, and that of his family, would never be the same.
“Although he is relieved the criminal aspect of this matter has been resolved, they still have to endure the tormenting personal hardship and strain that resulted."