Dying for a job: Sbonakaliso Mhlanga (30)

2013-02-03 09:59

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The tragic deaths of eight people in a fitness test for aspirant traffic officers have been forgotten all too soon. Sphumelele Mngoma revisits their stories.

All that Mhlanga cared about was getting a permanent job that paid him enough to support his family. He was from Adams Mission in Durban.

So when he received an SMS on Christmas Day to go to Pietermaritzburg to try out for a traffic cop trainee post, he excitedly told his mother, Eunice (48), to kiss her problems goodbye.

“My last words to him were: ‘Do me a favour, my love, and be safe. Don’t you dare faint’.”

She had called to check up on him after he earlier told her that people were collapsing but that the race was still continuing.

“All he had been worried about was the fact that he didn’t leave any money with me to pay the people he had hired to cut the grass. That’s just the type of person he was. He thought he would have been back before they left,” said Eunice.

Mhlanga, a general worker at Toyota, was the breadwinner for his family of nine.

His mother and four adult siblings do not work and her two youngest children are still in school.

He also looked after his grandmother and the four cousins she cares for. And there are his own children – both under five – with another on the way.

“This ordeal has not only robbed us of a delightful human being, it has taken food out of our stomachs. Everything you see in my house was through him,” his mother said.

She is convinced he was trampled to death.

“His chest and his other side were swollen. He was vomiting blood from one side of his mouth. The other bodies I saw seemed to have died the same way,” she said.

“I don’t have to be educated to know that by making a big group of desperate youngsters run against time and go through a small gate was asking for disaster.”

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