Durban – The Ntuzuma taxi driver who allegedly caused on Wednesday’s crash that killed four children recently served a six-months suspension for various traffic transgressions.
He had only recently returned to work when the taxi he was driving collided head-on with a municipal bus on Ingcebo Road, near the bus depot in Ntuzuma. Eighteen people were injured.
The driver, an affiliate of the Ntuzuma Taxi Association, was allegedly trying to dodge taxi route marshals, who stop overloaded taxis when the collision occurred.
Velaphi Gumede, the chairman of the association, said the driver returned to work in November following a six-month suspension.
He said the driver was suspended in 2016 as his conduct was “against association rules”.
According to Gumede, the driver was following a bus, which was about to turn right.
“Because he was (avoiding) the route marshals, he did not wait for the bus to turn. Instead, he manoeuvred past it, without realising that there was another, oncoming, bus.
“We feel bad for the families and the community we work with. This tragedy could have been avoided, but innocent lives are lost because of one person who disregarded our operational rules. These route marshals are there for a reason – to ensure that taxi drivers adhere to the rules, which include carrying only the certified number of passengers,” he said.
KwaMashu pupil Nonkanyiso Dlamini survived the Ntuzuma crash with minor injuries. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/Daily News
The taxi owner could not be reached for comment as her cellphone was off. She also had not responded by the time of publication to text messages the Daily News sent her.
On Wednesday afternoon, the association held an emergency meeting to discuss the accident and what needed to be done.
Gumede said the taxi owner did not attend, but was represented by her daughter.
“Her daughter told us that her mother was not herself after hearing about the accident. She did not have the strength to face the public or the association members,” he said.
The association had decided to help the families of the dead and had resolved not to allow the driver back in the association.
“He has caused more damage than we can handle. We want the police to do their best in ensuring that justice is served.”
On Thursday, association members are expected to visit all the families whose children were involved in the accident.
“Later, we will visit the families of the deceased, once they are ready, and will contribute towards the burials,” said Gumede.
Police spokeswoman Colonel Thembeka Mbhele said the injured driver was still in hospital and charges had not been laid against him yet.
The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) on Wednesday appointed a team of investigators to assist with investigations into the incident.
“The crash represented a major setback on efforts to improve road safety. Of particular concern is the allegedly rogue attitude displayed by the minibus driver moments before the crash,” the RTMC said.
The organisation called on taxi associations to deal decisively with the driver of the minibus and its owners. It also called on the traffic authorities to extend their zero-tolerance enforcement to all vehicles carrying school children.
“Our children deserve to be transported in vehicles that are safe, and by well-behaved drivers who respect the rules of the roads. Unsafe vehicles should be immediately impounded.”
On Tuesday, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said the fact that most fatal crashes were caused by a single motor vehicle overturning and by head-on collisions pointed to the inability of drivers to handle their motor vehicles.
“There is an influx on our roads of drivers who are not qualified to be driving.”