Families struggle with heartbreak, financial burden after bus crash

At the service, taxi and bus industry representatives lambasted reckless driving and called for accountability

Families of DMJ bus accident during a mass memorial service in Mthatha on Thursday.
Families of DMJ bus accident during a mass memorial service in Mthatha on Thursday.
Image: Ziyanda Zweni

Bereaved families of the DMJ bus horror smash are without means to bury and grieve their loved ones.

Tales of sudden financial distress and trauma emerged at a memorial service on Thursday for nine of the 30 victims from the King Sabata Dalindyebo villages at the Mthatha Stadium that was organised by the municipality. 

While clerics prayed for strength and wisdom for the families, some of whom will cremate their loved ones this weekend, family members spoke of how they struggled to do the right thing and provide decent burials.

Speaking to Sowetan sister publication, the Dispatch, on behalf of the families, Nkosinathi Gawuzela, of Xhongorha village whose family lost two relatives, Ntombodidi Gawuzela, 39, and her last born Unabantu, 3, said no family was prepared for the heartbreak and financial costs.

“Only some deceased had funeral cover. No-one was prepared for this.

“We need all the assistance we can get. We are still coming to terms with this great loss. We do not know how we will bury them,” Gawuzela said. 

He thanked the municipality for the memorial service.

Ntombodidi’s husband, Sandile Gawuzela, 44, who survived the crash, held back tears as he spoke of the pain experienced by the remaining three children, aged 16, 13 and 7.

He was travelling to his home in Xhongorha village when the bus left the Kei cuttings, and rolled.

“I am holding it together for my remaining children so we can carry on with our lives. I called out my son’s name after exiting the bus but I just knew he was no longer alive. 

“Seeing my wife’s body was unbearable.”

As the bus drove to its terrible fate, he said he and other passengers tried in vain to get the driver to stop and call for help as they knew the bus had a major fault.

“I need counselling. This is difficult for me. I will see that I receive counselling after the burial on Saturday,” he said. 

The Dunjana family from Mhlakulo village in Mqanduli lost three relatives, including three-year-old Oluhle, Ayabulela Dunjana, 18, and Mihlali Mabena, while a one-year-old child is fighting for his life in hospital. 

Mongezi Dunjana said: “We need counselling. I do not know how we will ever get over what happened. The loss is too deep.

“How could we ever imagine we would be burying three of our loved ones in a day?

“We will lay them to rest on Saturday but our hearts will take forever to heal. We have never had someone die from an accident in our family.

“Their bodies were barely recognisable. We need all the assistance from government to help in the burials,” an emotional Dunjana said. 

At the service, taxi and bus industry representatives lambasted reckless driving and called for accountability. 

KSD councillor Nontyantyambo Gcingca, speaking on behalf of government, said: “Government is waiting for any calls for help from the bereaved families. We wish the bus industry can strengthen how it works.

“We must not meet in places like this. We don’t want to hear of another accident,” she said.

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