Pietermaritzburg - The families of the eight people who died during and after a fitness test for jobs with the KwaZulu-Natal Road Traffic Inspectorate have not ruled out legal action against the provincial Transport Department.

This emerged after the memorial service at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall on Wednesday.

Dumisani Ngcobo, the families’ representative, said they were waiting for the results of the inquiry instigated by KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize.

Seven people died on December 27 after a 4km run, which was part of a fitness test for traffic officer jobs, held at the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg. More than 15 000 people were to be tested on one day for the 90 jobs and a further 17 000 the next day. One of the seven who died committed suicide. The eighth died in hospital a few days later. About 200 people were admitted to hospital. Three are still in hospital.

Recruits said afterwards no water or shade had been provided and first aid was limited.

“They should have learnt from the police on how to recruit,” said Ngcobo.

It was impossible to recruit properly from such a crowd of people, he added.

The memorial service was attended by Mkhize, Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo, Transport MEC Willies Mchunu, the eThekwini Community Church’s Pastor Vusi Dube and several other politicians.

Mchunu made an emotional apology to the families, saying the tragedy had saddened him.

“We will not force the families who are angry to forgive us. I would feel that way too if it had happened to my child.”

A tearful Mchunu said they had not expected so many to apply. “The numbers shocked us. People are really desperate for jobs,” he said.

Despite a suspension of the process, people continued phoning him, he said, asking when the recruitment would resume. Those in remote areas would now be tested there and not at a central location.

Mchunu said the report of the tragedy had been finalised and handed to Mkhize.

“If someone from the department or me was wrong, I will accept any punishment from the premier. We are really sorry, parents,” Mchunu said.

Mkhize said the tragedy had traumatised his family, colleagues and himself.

“We want to know how this happened. It must not be repeated,” the premier said.

He was studying the report and the law would have to take its course, he said.

Prayers were said at the service and a candle was lit in memory of those who died.

DA leader Sizwe Mchunu said there were a lot of questions still unanswered.

“Why were medical teams not in place? Why was water not provided?” he asked.

Applicants were told late about the fitness test, he said, questioning how it was possible to make a shortlist of 90 candidates from 32 000.

- The Mercury