One of South Africa’s most horrific road accidents occurred on 5 September, 2013. In the accident, 24 people were instantly killed by an out-of-control truck. Another three people died due to their injuries in hospital.
A restriction on heavy-duty trucks on the M13 near Fields Hill in Pinetown, where the accident occurred, is now being considered. A task team set up by national government will be spearheading the investigation into the accident.
Transport Minister Willies Mchunu has said that he welcomes the decision to charge the truck driver, 23-year-old Swaziland-born Sanele Goodness May, with murder rather than culpable homicide. May has been charged with 22 counts of murder, and with reckless and negligent driving.
Mchunu has also looked into whether the transport company that owns the truck – the Phoenix-based Sagekal Logistics, owned by Gregory Govender – can be charged with a civil lawsuit. There is certainly a good case for this because it’s understood that the truck’s brakes failed. Legally, the company is responsible for ensuring that its vehicles are roadworthy before they’re used for transport.
In the wake of the accident, the DA took the opportunity to criticize service delivery in the area. According to DA MP Radley Keys, his party consistently raised the topic of the danger of Fields Hill being used by heavy-duty trucks.
In addition, a Fields Hill task team report calling for a ban on heavy-duty trucks on that part of the M13, was submitted to Mchunu in December 2011. It proposed that trucks should use the “purpose built” toll section of the N3 rather than the Fields Hill section of the M13, which is steep, poorly maintained, and has very poor visibility. The report was largely ignored. The reasons for this were spelled out in a March 2012 reply – the cost would be too great for local retailers, and would drive up the price of food in what’s already an impoverished area.
In response to the criticism, Mchunu slammed the DA for “political point scoring” at a time where the focus should be on mourning the lives lost in a tragic accident.
On 9 September, relatives of the deceased met with officials from provincial government, who have agreed to assist with funeral and other costs, as well as with road accident fund claims.
In a public effort to prevent further accidents, a petition has been started to ban trucks from accessing Fields Hill. So far, it has been signed by over 8,500 people.