967 28.06.2012 Thomas Nkhatha looks away as he decides if he wants to have a mass funeral or a close family funeral for his wife Lydia Nkhatha who lost her life in a bus accident on R59 in Meyerton. Picture:Sharon Seretlo


SHOULDERS slumped under an oversized jacket, Thomas Nkhata clutched a ragged black file carrying the few official documents he had left of his wife Lydia.

His eyes wandered around the Saul Tsotetsi Sports Complex in Sebokeng where he and the other families of victims of the Meyerton bus crash were about to meet officials of the Sedibeng District Municipality yesterday to discuss funeral arrangements for the 19 people killed during the crash.

The Putco bus was carrying 74 passengers and travelling from Sebokeng towards Meyerton on the R59 when it crashed through the barrier line of a bridge on Monday.

Nkhata’s wife Lydia was killed. She was 47.

The 55 other passengers were injured, some of them seriously. It has been alleged that the bus had been travelling at high speed.

Nkhata, 43, was early. For the 30 minutes he had before the meeting started, he nervously sat outside the hall watching over a plastic bag that contained food for his four-year-old daughter.

As a result of the crash, Nkhata has been left not only a widower but a single father.

“She has been asking where her mother is… she doesn’t understand. She just wants her mother,” he said, rubbing his face with his hands.

Nkhata met Lydia in 2001. To him, she was everything he had wanted in a wife.

“I met her and knew – this is the woman I want to have a family with,” he said, a small smile forming as he was momentarily lost in a memory.

Nkhata and his wife worked for the same family, he as a gardener and she as a domestic.

“Lydia was a good woman,” he said as he stood to walk inside the hall for the meeting with the rest of the families, “but she’s not here any more and I have to be okay even if I’m not. For my daughter I have to be okay.”

The meeting was closed to the media. However, Dan Manoeli, acting director of external communications for the district, said: “We gathered to meet with the families to discuss the funeral arrangements for next week. We are giving families the option of having a mass funeral or they can have their own services. Putco also came to address the families and has offered R10 000 per dead person and two buses for each family who lives in Gauteng.

“If a family wants to have a private funeral outside Gauteng, Putco is offering R10 000 and one bus.”

The Road Accident Fund also offered R9 600 towards the coffin costs and preparations of the bodies for the funeral.

A mass memorial service for the victims of the crash will be held at the Mphatlalatsane Sports Complex in Sebokeng from 11am to 1pm on Wednesday next week and the funeral will be on Sunday.