Vusi Msibi, 49, was allegedly hit by a woman driving an eThekwini municipality vehicle on April 17.
A witness said a metro police vehicle as well as a tow-truck operator had been on the scene soon after the accident.
Marshall Security’s Kyle van Reenen said by the time paramedics arrived at the scene on Blackburn Road, Durban North, the driver of the vehicle had fled. Msibi was later admitted to hospital with a cracked skull. Although he died on Friday, police have not yet opened a case.
“Durban North police have no knowledge of the incident,” said police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane. Metro police were unable to confirm if anyone had attended the scene and eThekwini municipality spokesperson Mandla Nsele also said he was unaware of the matter.
“The city has a fleet of more than 5000 vehicles and accidents occur regularly. We would have to investigate this matter,” said Nsele.
The Sunday Tribune was alerted to the hit-and-run incident after a BackaBuddy fund-raising campaign was started for Msibi last week. A Facebook page called “Vusi Msibi Needs You” was also set up. Runners from across the globe who were touched by Msibi’s story had started donating towards his well-being. More than R40000 had been raised by the time he died on Friday.
When first contacted by the Sunday Tribune, Msibi’s distraught employer said she had been to visit him regularly and was afraid that he wouldn’t pull through. She said he had been training for his 19th Comrades when the accident occurred.
She put out a plea on social media calling for witnesses.
One who came forward said: “I drove past and a tow truck was reversing from the bottom. There was a lady driver; she looked shocked. He (the gardener) was lying down on the middle. I noticed a head injury and thought he was dead because there was no movement.”
Subsequent information revealed that Msibi had finished training and could have been crossing the road when he was hit. The employer said she attempted to open a case but police had told her only Msibi’s family could do so.
Msibi, a father of two from Newcastle, had worked for several other families in Durban North. However, he shared his closest bond with the Visagie family, having lived on their property for 18 years.
Msibi’s employer shared what she knew of his life and how he had got into running.
“He used to walk from KwaMashu to Durban North so he could save money on taxi and bus fares. The lady, who he worked for at the time, was a Comrades runner and she suggested he start running as a hobby, as he was so fit.
“We all made sure that he had the correct running shoes, that his race entries were paid for. Transport to races and from races was taken care of. That was the start of his 18 years of running the Comrades.”
She said Comrades Day was the highlight of Msibi’s year. “He was given royal treatment at the Comrades expo before the race because of his green number. He would spend the whole day there.
“He always proudly brought his medals to us the next day. Vusi said that running changed his life. He made so many wonderful friends while training,” said his employer.
She said losing Msibi would leave a void.
On the night before he died, she said: “My sister’s stepdaughter, who is a chiropractor, is going in to treat Vusi in hospital and do physio. She also used to treat him on the side of the road on Comrades Day. She was just a little girl when Vusi started working in her garden.”
Msibi’s son, Bonginkosi, 27, from Newcastle, managed to get Durban on Thursday, before his father died. “When I saw him on Thursday, his condition was bad. He could not recognise me.
“When I was about to leave, he called my name, held on to my hand and cried uncontrollably. On Friday morning, I received a call to say that he died,” said an emotional Bonginkosi.
He said his father’s passion for running developed many years ago.
“Back home in Newcastle, instead of using public transport, he would put his bag on his shoulder every morning and run to work. My sister and I were excited to attend the race and watch him run this year. We do not normally get to watch him run but this year he called and insisted that we should come to support him.”
He said the hospital had refused to release Msibi’s body because there was no police case opened. “They’ve asked that we open a case so they can release his body into a state mortuary and then it can be released to us. I hope that police will find the person who knocked him,” said Bonginkosi.
Following the news of Msibi’s death, messages of condolences poured in on social media for his family and employers.
- Additional reporting by Siboniso Mngadi.