Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says driver error and reckless behaviour are the cause of last week’s tragic N2 Pongola crash, which claimed the lives of 20 people.
Mbalula on Thursday briefed the media in Pongola, northern KwaZulu-Natal, on the findings of an accident investigation report conducted by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC).
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Last Friday 20 people died after a truck collided with a bakkie that was transporting primary school children on the N2 highway between Pongola and Itshelejuba.
The accident killed 18 pupils, aged between five and 12, and two adults.
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Mbalula said the accident report found that the truck driver was reckless and overtook multiple vehicles on the road in a dangerous and unlawful manner.
“This driver recklessly overtook vehicles and drove in the oncoming lane for approximately 1.2 kilometres.
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“These vehicles had to swerve out of the way of the approaching truck. The driver never made any attempt to return to his correct lane, but continued driving against oncoming traffic, putting lives of other motorists at risk,” he said.
Scholar transport in the spotlight
The minister said the driver of the bakkie was transporting school pupils in the back of his vehicle, which is illegal and dangerous.
“The National Road Traffic Act prohibits the transportation of school children in the goods compartment of a motor vehicle for reward.”
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Mbalula said the report from the RTMC would be shared with the director of public prosecutions and the senior public prosecutor in KZN for their consideration.
Truck driver arrested
The truck driver, Sibusiso Siyaya, on Monday made his first court appearance in the Pongola Magistrate’s Court after he handed himself over to police on Saturday.
The 28-year-old faces 21 charges of culpable homicide and negligent driving.
Siyaya is due back in court on 26 September 2022 for his formal bail application. The State plans to oppose his bail application alleging that he attempted to avoid justice when he fled the accident scene.
Interventions to improve road safety
Mbalula also announced measures to ease pressure on roads by trucks.
He said the MEC for Transport in KZN would be encouraged to invoke the provisions of Section 50 of the National Road Traffic Act to ensure companies that own trucks that move goods on roads adhere to strict compliance with the law.
“In bolstering our law enforcement activities in the province, all mobile testing centres in the possession of the KZN Department of Transport will be deployed with immediate effect on the N2 Pongola area and visibility of traffic law enforcement officers will be intensified,” Mbalula said.
The minister added that the Department of Transport had identified a number of risks that contributed to unsafe conditions on the N2 highway.
These included pedestrian safety, high travelling speeds, heavy truck traffic and limited passing opportunities which resulted in driver frustration.
“Through Sanral, we have initiated interventions that will provide additional capacity on the road where the incident occurred by widening the existing roadway, bridges and culverts. This will go a long way in improving safety for all road users,” Mbalula said.
The mass funeral for the Pongola crash victims will be held on Saturday.
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