Families want justice now

Given Mahlalela

Given Mahlalela

Families of crash victims killed in a freak accident have accused the justice department and police of incompetence.

The devastated families claim that Mpumalanga's Tonga court has failed them by not jailing the accused, Lifa Mkhabela, who is in his early 30s.

A former paramedic at Shongwe hospital, Mkhabela, from Schoemansdal Trust near Malelane, was arrested last year when the vehicle he was driving knocked down six bystanders at the Schoemansdal pension pay-point.

Mkhabela claims the accident occurred when he suffered an epileptic attack. He lost control of his brown Hyundai sedan and drove into people waiting at the pay-point.

Mkhabela's trial was to resume a few weeks ago at the Boschfontein periodical court, but it was adjourned to April 22 for trial and for more witnesses to come forward.

Magistrate Edgar Moletsane has postponed the case four times pending police investigation and the testimony of witnesses.

Mkhabela was arrested the day of the accident but was released on warning pending the investigation.

His release sparked accusations and counter-accusations. Families of the deceased claimed that Mkhabela was released from police holding cells because he had "political" connections.

"This case is running at a very slow pace. Every time we are told that it is final, but it is then postponed," said the father of one of the victims, Nkosane Thumbathi.

Phindile Thumbathi was 16 years old and a grade 8 pupil at Njeyeza High School in Schoemansdal.

Thumbathi told Sowetan that he and his family were tired of going to court and he hoped the case would make progress so that the family could finally come to terms with their child's death.

"If there is no case, then the people in charge should tell all the family members because we are tired of waiting and spending our hard-earned cash for nothing," Thumbathi said.

Another relative, Sibongile Nhleko, said: "We suspect foul play in the investigation."

Schoemansdal police head of detectives Captain Mogale Pilusa denied allegations that the police were taking too long to investigate the case.

"We are probing the case thoroughly. There is no poor investigation on the issue," Pilusa said.