No jail time for unlicensed driver after fatal crash
Candida “Camy” Govender, 26, of Brindhaven, died when Yaya Vahed, who was 18 at the time and lived in the same area, lost control of his Isuzu bakkie on December 5, 2016.
The bakkie veered off the road and crashed into another car before colliding head-on into Govender's VW Golf.
Govender sustained multiple blunt force injuries and died in hospital. Vahed was subsequently charged with culpable homicide and reckless or negligent driving.
At the start of the trial in the Verulam Magistrate's Court in 2017, he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
But in July last year, Magistrate V Katravaloo found him guilty.
He claimed it was raining heavily that day and he hit a pothole. His steering wheel locked and his bakkie veered out of his lane.
“My bakkie was then struck in the front by a Polo motor vehicle, causing my bakkie to face in a north-easterly direction,” he said.
Vahed claimed another car, a VW Golf, which he said had been speeding, crashed into his bakkie.
During the trial, a State witness from the Department of Road Works said there were no potholes on the road and two witnesses, who were travelling on the same road, said it was not raining.
The court found the State witnesses to be credible and rejected Vahed’s version, and he was found guilty.
Last Wednesday, Vahed was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for culpable homicide, wholly suspended for three years, and 18 months imprisonment for reckless or negligent driving, wholly suspended for three years.
Vahed will not serve any jail time or perform any community service.
In handing down sentence, Magistrate Katravaloo said while the State called for a custodial sentence, the court must also possess a quality of mercy.
He said the court must also take into consideration that Vahed was a first-time offender and that it was brought to his attention only on the day of sentencing that he was in matric at the time of the accident.
“The court must take into consideration that even though there are case laws, which say a person found guilty of culpable homicide be given a custodial sentence, I have yet to see any case law, even in the Supreme Court of Appeal, that has given a person of 18 years found guilty of culpable homicide, a custodial sentence.”
After the sentencing, Govender's father, Emmanuel, said: “We cannot accept the sentence. The justice system has failed my child and my family. We had to go to court many times over the past four years, and every time there was some delay or adjournment, but we kept the faith that there would be justice.
“Now, we have many unanswered questions. How does someone, who is found guilty, walk away with a slap on the wrist?”.
He said the sentence sent out a wrong message.
“He may have been 18 at the time, but he was still an adult. He should have known better and that there were consequences to certain actions or behaviour. What message does this sentence send out to those who are underage and drive without a licence, that they will walk free?”
Emmanuel said Vahed apologised and expressed remorse in a statement read to the court.
“But what about approaching the family directly? It has been many years, but not one day did he or his family come up to us to say sorry, despite having many opportunities to do so. Now, it is too late.”
He said his daughter, who completed her honours degree in supply management and was a trainee manager for Massmart, was an amazing woman.
“She was not just any child. She took care of me and her brother after her mother died eight years ago. She used to say, ‘Daddy, I will always be here for you’. But someone took her away from me.”
Speaking on behalf of the family, Vahed’s attorney, Shaheen Seedat, said: “The family is relieved that their son has not been incarcerated, and has been given a second chance at life.
“My client's father said they initially attempted to reach out to the family, but to no avail. They do, however, with my assistance want to reach out again and have a meeting with the family.”