Fatal crash: truck driver lied, was fundamentally dishonest

Sibusiso Siyaya

Sibusiso Siyaya

Published May 20, 2024


Durban — The High Court, sitting at the Phongola Magistrate’s Court, found that the cause of the collision that killed 20 people was the deliberate volitional act of a truck driver in deciding in the most dangerous of circumstances at deliberately high speeds to overtake congested traffic going south.

The congestion was caused by a service delivery protest at Waterbas.

Acting Judge Garth Davis this week convicted and jailed driver Sibusiso Siyaya, 28, for 20 years.

Those who died included children from the Ntshangase household Minenhle Anginavalo, 7, Nothando Ningabesabi, 8, and Thembelihle Prince, 11, as well as two children from the Simelane household – 5-year-old Thingo and 6-year-old Nkululeko, as well as 10-year-old Alwande.

Two more children, from the Nkonyane household, Sgcino Philasande, 6, and 14-year-old Mduduzi Nkonyane, were also killed.

The other children who died were Bandile Snenhlanhla Nyawo, 11, Asanda Paris Mhlongo, 14, Lwandle Mpilonhle Nkonde, 6, Kusekuhle Lizongathi Goba, 5, Junior Amile Thikazi, 6, Siyanda Nkosinathi Mlangeni, 13, and Mpilenhle Obenathi Makhangeza, 7.

The children were on their way home from school. Their teacher, Zinhle Florence Mkhize, 28, also died.

The deceased, 18 pupils, a driver, and a teacher, were all travelling in a Toyota light delivery vehicle in the oncoming lane with unlicensed Lethukuthula Sphephelo Nkonyane, 19, at the wheel. Evidence presented to the court during the trial by senior State advocate Krishen Shah was that Siyaya was employed as a heavy motor vehicle driver by Perry Masinga on behalf of BaoBao Projects, a company that transported coal from Mpumalanga to the Richards Bay Coal Terminal in KZN.

On September 16, 2022, Siyaya collected 34 tons of coal in Mpumalanga to be transported to KZN, driving an OAF mechanical horse and two side tipper trailers.

En route, he experienced a mechanical issue with his rear trailer brake which he attended to in Piet Retief. He proceeded on the N2 towards Richards Bay via the Itshelejuba Pass. Before descending the pass, Siyaya ignored a mandatory stop for heavy motor vehicles where he was obliged to stop and engage a low gear prior to continuing with descending the pass. Siyaya, who had been in custody since his arrest in September 2022, was alleged by the State to have driven recklessly down the pass and overtook several vehicles over the double barrier centre median and onto the oncoming lane.

In his judgment, Judge Davis said on four occasions Siyaya exceeded 120km/h and when confronted with these facts his response was to blame a faulty speedometer, and faulty idling, all raised as an afterthought late in the trial.

Judge Davis said: “In his bail application he maintained that when his vehicle started down the pass his speedometer was past 120 km/h. The faulty speedometer was clearly yet another fabrication made to counter the suggestion that he deliberately broke the speed limit … His evidence and credibility receded to a very low ebb. He was both argumentative and fundamentally dishonest.

“In an effort to distance himself from the suggestion that the accused’s driving was motivated by his desire to complete trips as quickly as possible in order to maximise his earnings, the accused, when he gave evidence, denied that he was paid per trip completed. The lie was exposed when he was cross-examined on the contents of the evidence he gave in the bail application in which he confirmed that he was paid per trip completed and he was the one who told the court the amounts he was paid on completion of a trip.”

Judge Davis said Siyaya’s brakes had failed on the incline when he tried to slow down to enter a concrete road leading to a stop sign.

“He tried to manually gear down but failed. At the time he crested the summit he was steering a runaway vehicle, and he had no means available to him to stop the vehicle other than the gradient. His evidence is unreliable, riddled with deceit and mendacity. He never tried to take the court into his confidence at all.”

Sunday Tribune