Driver’s jail term 'will serve as deterrent'

Siyaya flouted road rules by getting into oncoming traffic in his truck

Koena Mashale Journalist
Sibusiso Siyaya crashed into a Bakkie in 2022, killing 20 people.
Sibusiso Siyaya crashed into a Bakkie in 2022, killing 20 people.
Image: TrafficSA via Twitter

Organisations advocating for road safety believe that the 20-year imprisonment handed out to the truck driver who killed 20 people in KwaZulu-Natal would only be a strong deterrent if only citizens would learn. 

Sibusiso Siyaya, 30, was sentenced by the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pongola on May 16 for ramming into a bakkie while driving on its lane in 2022.

A camera installed inside the truck captured how Siyaya flouted road rules by getting into an oncoming lane, for about 1.2km, while other vehicles moved out of the way before crashing into the bakkie.

He was handed 14 years for the murders of 18 children and two adults who were in the bakkie and an additional six years for failing to perform the duties of a driver after the accident and for failing to report the accident.

Siyaya is not the first to kill many people though negligence on the road. In 2010, Jacob Humphreys was taking children to school in their scholar transport taxi when he overtook a row of cars at the Buttskop level crossing in Blackheath, ignored safety signals and proceeded over the tracks.

A train hit the taxi, killing 10 of the children. Four others were seriously injured.

The Western Cape man was charged with 10 counts of murder and handed a 20 years sentence. However, he appealed and the murder conviction was turned to culpable homicide. He only spent eight years in prison.

Three years later, Sanele May – an Eswatini national living in SA illegally, drove his truck through a red light at high speed. The truck hit several vehicles including taxis that were full of commuters, killing 24 people.

May only served six years in prison and then deported back home upon his release.

Asked whether the sentence would be a deterrent, Dr Lee Randall, co-founder of non-profit organisation Road Ethics Project, said Siyaya's 20-year imprisonment will provide some degree of closure to the families. 

“The direct victims are unfortunately all deceased but their families, relatives, friends, teachers and other people who knew them are secondary victims whose suffering is also very important to consider,” said Randall. 

Siyaya was employed as a heavy motor vehicle driver for a company which transported coal from Mpumalanga to the Richards Bay coal terminal in KZN for export. 

On September 16 2022, he collected a load of coal in Mpumalanga and made his way towards the coal terminal in Richards Bay, where he drove recklessly, often overtaking several vehicles over the double barrier centre median and onto the oncoming lane until he crashed into the bakkie.

He then fled the scene as his victims lay dead in the mangled bakkie. Three of the dead children were siblings.

Siyaya was slapped with three years for  reckless driving, six years for failing to perform the duties of a driver after the accident and failing to report the accident. The judge ordered that the two sentences run concurrently.  

He was further charged with 14 years on the counts of murder for the 20 people he killed and his driver’s licence was cancelled. 

Randall said while he hoped the sentence would be a deterrent, learning lessons when it comes to road safety was not the country’s strong point. 

“We have so many cases which should have acted as a strong deterrent but haven’t necessarily done so, partly because the media and the public have not paid full attention to them. What comes to mind immediately is the case of Humphrey Jacobs many years ago,” said Randall. 

Randall also said in truck cases, it’s sad as the owners often escape scot-free. “A true deterrent would involve them experiencing very significant consequences which are highly visible to other employers and the public at large,” said Randall. 

“Government has blood on its hands in the way it allowed Transnet and Prasa to become utterly failed entities which now require expensive and very slow remediation, and our roads were never designed for the very heavy truck traffic they now carry as a result.”

Lucky Molaudzi, general manager at Road Safety Partnership SA, said the families should receive ongoing emotional and psychological support.

“Even though no one can measure the loss of a human life, but the sentencing of Sibusiso Siyaya to 20 years in prison brings a measure of justice for the victims and their families.

“This case sets a strong precedent and serves as a deterrent to others who might engage in reckless driving, emphasising the severe consequences of such behaviour,” said Molaudzi. 

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