Grieving Pretoria family rejects ’hit and run’ claim of cops after father of newborn dies
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Pretoria – Clutching onto her newborn baby, an inconsolable Netsai Nyakunu on Sunday marked her 35th birthday at a sombre funeral wake for her husband, Witness Binde, who succumbed to injuries after being hit by a car in Arcadia, east of the Pretoria CBD.
Five days before Binde died on Thursday, the couple, who live in Capital Park, Pretoria, had been blessed with a son, and named him Witness Junior, after the father who is now lying in the mortuary at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, which is next to their home.
Nyakunu said she has not come to terms with her loss.
“It has not sunk in at this stage. I think I will need time to come to terms. Right now I still hope and pray that I will hear him knock the door.
’’I need answers from the authorities but nothing is forthcoming. Even the relatives who went to ask the South African Police Service came back blank. We know nothing regarding how he was killed,” she said.
“I now know that he is lying in the mortuary of the Steve Biko Academic Hospital next to our home, but how he ended up there remains a mystery to me. I expected even the police to pass by and brief us on what happened, but that has not happened.”
For three consecutive days, from Sunday, Binde’s cousin, Nick Ruguwa, has daily led a family delegation to the Sunnyside police station, seeking answers and documentation required by the funeral parlour to take the body from the hospital before ferrying it to Zimbabwe for burial.
On Tuesday, Ruguwa said he was shocked to hear from the South African Police Service at Sunnyside that the incident was a hit-and run, when witnesses insist police officers who responded to the scene found the driver at the event.
“Already, one can sense that something has gone wrong in this matter. When Witness Binde was hit by the car, a crowd gathered at the scene.
’’We have been repeatedly told by residents in Arcadia that the driver initially fled the scene but was pursued and brought back to the crime scene by another motorist. Police officers interacted with the driver of the VW Caddy that day but now he has vanished,” said Ruguwa.
“Binde died last week, on Thursday according to what we heard from the hospital. Today, almost a week after, the police are still unsure if he died. We had to give them that information.’’
The family has identified Binde’s body in the mortuary of the Steve Biko Academic Hospital. Last week, the family said, the hospital has informed them about Binde’s death and the funeral arrangements have been under way.
Witnesses, including security guards working in the area, corroborated Ruguwa’s version about police officers interacting with the driver.
“I left my work station to go and see how badly the pedestrian had been hit. It was a member of the South African National Defence Force who pursued the driver and brought him back to the accident scene.
’’When police officers from Sunnyside arrived, the driver was still there and the officers spoke to him,” said a security guard manning a building along Pretorius Street.
A student, who requested anonymity, insisted that police officers found the driver at the crime scene.
“I was walking into the flat when the man was hit by the car. With my friends, we rushed to the scene, too, hoping that we could help.
’’The driver initially fled the scene but was brought back to the scene by a soldier in uniform. He did not flee twice because I saw police officers interacting with him there,” said the student, pointing at the scene.
However, on Tuesday, Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubele said it remained an “allegation” that the person hit by a car last week had died.
“If the person died, the hospital was supposed to call the police and I believe they called the SAPS Pretoria Central. Now we cannot confirm that a person died when we do not have a case number of that person,” said Makhubele.
“What I know, it is a case of reckless and negligent driving (being probed). The other thing, we need to have a case number.”
There is a CCTV camera at the scene where Binde was hit by the car, but it was unclear by Tuesday morning if the camera was working.