No bail for driver of death truck
Fears over his safety and mental state
THE Barberton Magistrate's Court yesterday denied bail to the driver of a truck that was involved in an freak accident that claimed the lives of 25 people in Hectorspruit near Malelane, Mpumalanga, last week.
Magistrate Lucky Mhlanga said he agreed with the investigating officer that George Mandlazi, 32, should not be granted bail because it was too risky to do so.
Investigating officer Lieutenant Senzo Patrick Banda told the court they should allow the community an opportunity to calm down before granting Mandlazi bail.
"It is too early for the court to grant the accused bail. I do not have objections, but I don't think it is the right time for the accused to be released on bail. Maybe after the funeral the community and families (of accident victims) would have calmed down.
"I spoke to him (Mandlazi) this morning and he told me that he does not sleep at night. There is a possibility that he may commit suicide. He has to get counselling because he is still shocked by what happened," Banda said.
Mandlazi is believed to have failed to stop at the level crossing on the N4 Highway between Komatipoort and Malelane.
There were about 44 passengers in the truck.
A train carrying coal from Witbank to Maputo dragged the truck for about 200 metres, leaving bodies with their limbs missing, scattered on the ground.
Banda said there was a 50/50 chance that Mandlazi would flee the country.
"The community is angry. They are still mourning and some felt that something bad would happen to the accused if bail was granted," Banda said.
In his application for bail, a clearly shaken Mandlazi, who had a bandage on his head, said he had four sons, all born of different mothers.
He said he would plead not guilty to 25 counts of murder, reckless and negligent driving.
"My intention was to transport them to work, safely. My grandmother's son died in the accident," Mandlazi said.
Mhlanga said he would grant Mandlazi the opportunity to present new facts at a later stage.
Mandlazi, who told the court he had relatives in Maputo, is expected to appear in court again on August 14.
Mandlazi's stepfather Nelson Mafika said they were saddened by the court's decision