‘Cover-up’ to protect driver in fatal taxi crash
Sithembile Mhletywa spoke at the memorial service of his seven-year-old nephew, Liyabona Mbaba at the Holy Cross School in Zonnebloem yesterday.
Pupils, staff, education department officials and family of Liyabona packed the Holy Cross Church for an emotional farewell.
Details of the accident are still sketchy but it is believed that the young taxi driver may have been speeding and crashed into the barrier on the N2.
A teacher at the school, who was at the accident scene on Monday morning and who wished to remain anonymous, told Weekend Argus they were initially told that the taxi had crashed into a car ahead of it.
“There was no second car at the accident scene. Even the damages to the taxi did not look like it had knocked into another car,” said the teacher.
According to the teacher, the taxi was overloaded.
“The owner showed me the list of 29 children that should have been in the taxi that morning. One of our other pupils who travelled with Liyabona was absent on the day and there should have been 29 children but there were only 28,” said the teacher.
The taxi was only designed to carry 17 pupils.
The school and the family say they have yet to receive a plausible explanation from the owner of the taxi who was reportedly in the vehicle with the driver at the time of the accident.
“She told me that she told the young driver that he was driving too fast and he should slow down,” said the teacher.
Mhletywa said the family was initially told that the taxi had a tyre burst and then it had swerved.
“The owner is giving us an explanation that we do not understand,” he said.
Liyabona, which means he sees, was the only child killed in the crash and could only be recognised by his school uniform.
According to the teacher, the young driver was hyperventilating at the accident scene and was clearly traumatised.
“He looked young. He was clean and smelt like he had just bathed. I saw him in the ambulance and gave him a big hug. He was visibly upset,” said the teacher.
The school lit seven candles for each year of Liyabona’s life and for each of the seven grades at the school.
An emotional principal, Nomthandazo Zweni, bid a moving farewell to “our little angel” and could not hold back the tears.
“I have only been in this post since April, and to lose one of our children is hard. He has gone on and walked ahead of us,” said Zweni.
She also addressed the family in isiXhosa, saying: “We carry them for nine months, teach them, take them to school on the first day and sometimes our children make us cry. Liyabona did not live long enough to make us cry”.
The boy lived with his grandparents in Litha Park, Khayelitsha, after the death of his mother five years ago.
His grandmother was too emotional to speak when she was approached by Weekend Argus.
“My mother is taking this very hard. She prepared him for school that morning. She didn’t think she wouldn’t see him again,” said Mhletywa.
He said the boy’s body was collected from the state mortuary yesterday afternoon and moved to the family’s undertaker. He will be laid to rest in Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape next Saturday.
Police spokesperson FC van Wyk said a case of culpable homicide was opened and the 27-year-old suspect, Hlabiso Masoka, appeared in court this week and was not granted bail. He is due back in court on August 7. He added that Masoka had no licence and the vehicle was not roadworthy.
Meanwhile, schools in the Zonnebloem area are planning to call a meeting with traffic officials and Transport MEC Brett Herron soon to address their concerns around pupil transport in the area.