DURBAN02032012 BMW driver that killed DUT students at Glenwood. Picture: SANDILE NDLOVU

The three-year suspended sentence for the driver of a speeding car that crashed into a tree, killing six occupants, has been met with disapproval from the family of one of the victims, as well as the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport.

Department spokesman Kwanele Ncalane, on Thursday equated the sentence given to Mzuphilile Gadu to a slap on the wrist.

Gadu, who pleaded guilty to six counts of culpable homicide, was sentenced this week to three years’ imprisonment suspended for five years, as well as 36 months of correctional supervision and community service.

The fatal crash happened in Clark Road, Glenwood, in May 2011.

Ncalane said the department had expected a much tougher sentence.

“This is especially because there was the issue of speeding involved as well as allegations of drunk driving at the time of the accident,” he said.

He said that in the Western Cape in a similar case the charges of culpable homicide had been changed to murder.

The department would continue to canvass that in cases where excessive speed was involved the charges be changed to murder, he said.

“These people are no different to murderers with guns. If it involves drunk driving, excessive speed and overloading, the charge should be murder,” he said.

Ncalane said the department had also hoped that some restrictions would be put in place regarding Gadu’s driving licence, but nothing was mentioned in this regard.

“This shows that there is more work that needs to be done in cases such as these, but we are in no position to challenge the judicial system,” he said. “We are still hoping for a case where the sentence will be a lesson to all reckless drivers.”

Mzwandile Zitha, 30, Athi Nzuwuse, 17, Bongeka Silinga, 19, Elethu Diko, 19, Sesi Thabethe, 20 and Zemkhithi Faltenie, 18, were all passengers in the BMW that Gadu, a 24-year-old student, had been driving.

Ncalane said most people who died in road accidents were between the ages of 18 and 30 with some being university students and others post graduates.

“This is serious. This type of carnage is robbing the country of skilled and educated individuals,” he said.

“The government invests in young people through bursaries and financial aid schemes – losing them is like a step backwards.”

Ncalane said the department would be studying Gadu’s sentence to help it strengthen some of its campaigns in the future.

Zitha’s mother Sanelina Zitha, said the sentence was too lenient.

“It was not easy as a single parent putting him through school only to lose him when he was doing his final year at university,” she said.

“He had said he would help me and he was my last hope.”

Zitha said she was raising her five children as well as her late son’s twin daughters on her own.

“We are not satisfied with the sentence because he (Gadu) will continue going to school and progress in life. He will still live his life while my son’s life was ended abruptly,” she said.

Zitha said her family had been informed by the police that Gadu would appear in court on Wednesday and would plead guilty.

“It costs money to travel from Vryheid to Durban so we couldn’t go,” she said.

“It is still hard till this day; it still hurts that I lost my son.”

The Daily News tried to reach Gadu for comment on Thursday but his brother, who would not give his first name, said the family was not ready to be interviewed. - Daily News