Durban - One year, on Friday, after the horror Fields Hill truck crash that killed 24 and injured 32, some victims and survivors’ families are still struggling with physical and psychological scars - and have had to get by without financial aid they were promised would be fast-tracked.
Many are still living with the trauma of the accident that changed their lives for ever.
Some have not returned to work, others’ studies have been cut short.
One woman’s face was so swollen afterwards that her baby was terrified and refused to breastfeed.
An articulated truck – its brakes had apparently failed - ploughed into four fully laden taxis and several other vehicles at the bottom of Fields Hill in Pinetown that evening.
Some of the survivors and deceased’s loved ones have forgiven truck driver Sanele May, while a few want truck owner Gregory Govender of Sagekal Logistics to face the music.
May is awaiting trial and is being held at Westville Prison. He is expected back in court this month.
Those who spoke to the Daily News on Thursday said their grief ran deep.
Mthoko Dlamini, 32, lost three relatives - his two younger brothers, Sibonelo and Simon, and his cousin Bonginkosi Zungu, a taxi driver.
Not a day went by without him thinking of them, he said.
“If there is someone to blame, it will be the truck owner; he has never even apologised to us as a family and he is not being prosecuted,” Dlamini said.
He said May’s relatives had apologised and they accepted it as a family.
Ntombi Duma, 39, a matric biology teacher, has been on sick leave since she was involved in the crash.
Her spine was dislocated and she suffered head injuries, which have caused deafness in her left ear.
She spent a month in hospital last September, and regularly visits an ear, neck and throat specialist at the Hillcrest Private Hospital.
Duma also attends counselling at Crompton Hospital in Pinetown weekly.
Asked if she had forgiven May, she said:
“He has never asked for forgiveness from me and I have never heard anyone say that he wants to see me and ask for forgiveness.
“I know he is in jail right now, but if he was to come to me and explain his side of the story, face to face, maybe the situation would change.
“But right now that is out of the picture for me.”
Duma is expected back at her school in Embo, near Hillcrest, in two weeks, but she said she had not recovered from the injury and was still traumatised.
She could not stay on her feet for prolonged periods, and feared her career would be affected for ever.
Zama Nxumalo, 22, daughter of Nhlanhla Nxumalo, who died at the scene, said they depended on her mother’s pension to survive.
She lives with nine relatives - her mother, siblings, nephews and nieces - at their Thornwood home in Mariannhill.
Zanele Shange, 40, of Chesterville, was on her way from the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Edgewood campus where she had been studying the last module towards an honours degree, part-time, when the tragedy occurred.
“By the time I got out of hospital it was too late for me to submit and the university did not give me an extension,” she said.
“I was so close, just one module and I am yet to go back.”
The primary school teacher could not return to work until January because of the broken bones in her right hand. Although she cannot see them, she said the metal rods put in were a constant reminder of the crash, which left her psychologically scarred as well.
“I have not been back past that site since, and I make sure to avoid it,” Shange said. “That horror is something that will be with me for the rest of my life.”
The mother of three believes Govender should be standing alongside May in the dock.
“He is the owner, he can’t just get away with it.”
She said she felt sorry for May. “I don’t hold a grudge against him, nor do I hold him responsible.
“Where are the people who own that truck, or those who gave him those fake (permit) papers?
“Why must the little people, the poor people suffer all the time?”
Samkelisiwe Nkala, 25, said her face was so badly swollen and ripped from the crash - that her baby did not recognise her.
“My baby was terrified of me and stopped breastfeeding.
“I was unemployed and now had to think about formula.”
“With all the hype around this crash, not a single person from the truck company apologised or made an effort to meet us, come to us and say, ‘what can we do to ease your pain?’,” she said.
She said that during those times, although she had the support of her fiancé and family, the food parcels she received from supporters on Facebook were much needed.
Despite this, Nkala said she did not blame May.
“It says a lot that they (the company) did not verify his details when they hired him, but when the crash happened they did so very quickly,” she said.
“If it wasn’t at Fields Hill, it would have been elsewhere, because the problem was the truck not being well maintained by the owner.”
Nkala lives in KwaNdengezi and passes the crash site every day. She does not remember much of it as she was in and out of consciousness.
Nkala says when she tries to get answers from her sister, who remembers the crash, she refuses to say anything, not wanting to relive the fateful day.
Nkala says she has learnt to be strong, to live on. She prays that May will find peace as well.