News / 4 September 2013, 09:44am / KUTLWANO OLIFANT and JAMES MAHLOKWANE
Johannesburg - Former Gauteng MEC Humphrey Mmemezi’s driver, Joseph Semitjie, had to take the stand on Tuesday after his lawyer failed to have him discharged.
Attorney Moses Rankoe had applied unsuccessfully for his client to be discharged.
Rankoe brought the application on Tuesday at the Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Court, asking that the court discharge Semitjie on charges of reckless and negligent driving as well as failure to assist an injured person, causing injuries, and malicious damage to property.
Semitjie knocked down Thomas Ferreira and left him brain-damaged while allegedly driving the former MEC to a meeting in November 2011.
At the time, Mmemezi denied he was in the car.
His then spokesman, Victor Moreriane, said the police had confirmed that Mmemezi was not in the BMW at the time the accident happened.
During his application, Rankoe said all seven witnesses who testified were showing bias towards and sympathised for Ferreira.
He said the witnesses failed to assist the accused or any person in the BMW.
Rankoe said some witnesses at the scene took pictures, while others asked the accused questions.
The lawyer added that, as a result, the court could not rely on the witnesses.
“On the other side, in fact, it involves a motorbike, whose driver was injured. But it is not known whether in fact (Ferreira) had a driving licence or (if he was) entitled to be on the road at the time.
“The accused, in fact, (should) be discharged on the counts of reckless and negligent driving. And it is of further submission that the bike driver, is in fact, the person who should have been charged for reckless and negligent driving.”
Magistrate Abdul Khan dismissed the application.
When he took to the witness stand shortly after this, Semitjie testified that he was driving at a speed estimated at lower than 20km/h when he drove into the intersection where the accident took place.
He added that the blue lights of the vehicle were on and the siren was blaring as far as about 50m away from the intersection.
The court heard that he had worked at crime intelligence’s Protection Services as a close protector since 2010.
The court also heard that he had been given authorisation to drive since 2007.
Semitjie testified that he was travelling with a colleague and former MEC.
He said they had fetched Mmemezi from his house in Krugersdorp.
A day after this denial on November 8, the Gauteng provincial government admitted that Mmemezi had left the scene immediately after the accident.
It emerged later that Semitjie failed his advanced driving VIP protection course twice - before, and again after, the accident.
Semitjie failed the test for the first time in July 2011.
A few months later, on November 5, he got behind the wheel to rush Mmemezi - who was running late - to a morning meeting.
Matric pupil and motorcyclist Ferreira collided with the BMW X5 at a traffic light.