Commission tasked with investigating RTI deaths finalised

2013-04-24 00:00

TRANSPORT Department officials could face criminal charges if a commission finds they were negligent in the deaths of applicants for jobs as traffic officers.

An estimated R10,6 million has been earmarked for the commission of inquiry into the deaths of eight would-be recruits during a fitness test in December last year.

Its terms of reference were finally released yesterday.

The eight who died, mainly from dehydration, were Sbonakaliso Mhlanga (30), Lindokuhle Kunene (30), Xolani Gumede (29), Ntuthuko Sibisi (28), Lenny Nxumalo (28), Sanele Ngcobo (22), Bongiwe Mbatha (29) and Lungile Wamba (30).

“We cannot pre-empt the finding of the commission … but we need to find closure because what happened here was very painful,” Premier Zweli Mkhize said yesterday.

“The commission must make recommendations towards reconciliation and possible action or criminal prosecution,” he said.

Members of the commission are advocate Thandi Norman (chair), commissioners Bishop Rubin Phillip and advocate Thandanani Mthembu, evidence leader Sithembiso Kunene, investigator Bongekile Zulu and secretary Dumisani Xaba.

The commission will operate over the next five months with its first sittings on April 29 and 30 and May 2. Further dates are still to be announced.

Although an estimated R10,6 million has been set aside to finance the commission, Mkhize’s spokesperson, Ndabezinhle Sibiya, said the Treasury was still to confirm how much would be spent.

Norman said the commission was meeting families of the deceased. They also planned to visit the scene of the fitness tests.

Mpumelelo Kunene, the sister of Lindokuhle Kunene, said the commission had advised them that a legal aid attorney would help them understand the proceedings.

She was still struggling with her brother’s death and would like to know exactly what happened.

“It is still very hard. I am left all alone as I have no other brother or sister, and his young child keeps asking for him.”

Thembinkosi Nxumalo, the father of Lenny Nxumalo, said: “I do not want to talk about this because this matter annoys me greatly and is still very painful …”

Each family will appoint a representative to speak for them before the commission. Their transport and accommodation will be covered in the commission’s budget. Transport will also be provided for the applicants who were injured.

Mkhize said the commission would look at the direct and indirect reasons for the deaths, the planning and co-ordination of the training, whether medical resources were deployed, whether refreshment and ablution facilities were available and whether any government official was directly or indirectly responsible.

“ … The commission may, where appropriate, refer any matter regarding the conduct of any person for prosecution or further investigation to an appropriate body,” he said.

Mkhize said anyone with information that might be relevant to the inquiry and who wished to give evidence should call the commission secretary at 033 341 7127, 033 341 7050 or 072 039 0353.

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