Amputee sues over pothole

2010-01-19 00:00

HIGH court Judge Jan Combrink heard evidence yesterday that a huge pothole, which allegedly caused an accident in which Hluphile Elda Zuma (53) lost her hand and part of her arm in December 2004, was only repaired about eight months ago.

Mechanic Sheshile Tokozani, who towed the damaged minibus from the accident scene after it overturned on the R33 between Keates Drift and Tugela Ferry, said the pothole had been there for “three to four years” before the accident. It was repaired only about eight months ago, he said.

Tokozani estimated the pothole was between 30 to 35 cm deep.

Another witness estimated the depth of the pothole to have been about 25 cm.

According to documents before court, the pothole was allegedly 9 m long and 2,5 m wide at its widest point.

Zuma has sued KwaZulu-Natal’s former premier, S’bu Ndebele, and former provincial transport MEC Bheki Cele for R1 181 600. However, at this stage the court is being asked only to decide whether the province is liable to pay damages arising from the accident.

Zuma alleges that she was injured as a result of negligence on the part of the province and/or its employees for failing to keep the road in a safe condition; failing to inspect the road regularly to ensure it did not constitute a hazard to road users; and failing to arrange for repairs to the road, which contained “many potholes”. Officials also allegedly failed to erect signs warning motorists of the dangerous condition of the road.

It is being alleged that the minibus taxi in which Zuma was a passenger had to move to the wrong side of the road to avoid hitting the pothole.When an approaching vehicle forced the minibus to move back to its correct lane it allegedly struck the pothole and overturned.

Zuma, a former chef at the Church of Scotland hospital in Tugela Ferry, had her left forearm amputated below the elbow as a result of the injuries she sustained.

The province is defending the action and has denied allegations of negligence. It has pleaded that its responsibility to maintain provincial roads is governed by section nine of the KwaZulu-Natal Roads Act, which sets out that the MEC is responsible “within available financial resources” for the construction and maintenance of provincial roads.

Any action or “failure to act” on the part of employees was not by reason of wilfulness or negligence, but by reason of “limited financial constraints”, it argues. The province further alleges that the negligent driving of the taxi driver contributed to, or was the sole cause of, the accident.

The case is continuing.

• Last year Pietermaritzburg advocate Allistair McIntosh SC won a legal battle against the KwaZulu-Natal premier for his client to be compensated for injuries he sustained in a cycling accident, which occurred when he swerved to avoid a pothole on the P164 Rosetta-Kamberg road. The sum of money the province agreed to pay him was never made public, but it is believed to amount to millions of rands.

 

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