Judge visits Ndebele’s farm road

2010-01-27 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG high court Judge Jan Combrink and legal teams in the trial in which former chef Hluphile Elda Zuma (53) is suing the pro­vince over her injuries allegedly caused by a pothole, yesterday visited the section of road leading to the Albert Falls farm of Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele.

The road was tarred by the KwaZulu-Natal Roads Department during the 2004/2005 financial year, raising questions about how it was funded, after the department challenged Zuma’s lawsuit, alleging there were insufficient funds available to repair the pothole, which allegedly resulted in her injuries in December 2004.

She lost her hand and part of her arm.

The pothole in question, on the R33 Keates Drift-Tugela Ferry road, has been described as being nine metres long and 2,5m wide.

A witness testified during the trial that it was in existence for about four years and was repaired only about eight months ago.

Zuma’s lawyers subpoenaed the KZN roads department to produce documents relating to the tarring of a section of the D173 leading to then KZN premier Ndebele’s farm in the same year.

The documents have now been produced and handed over to the lawyers, but have not yet been dealt with in court.

The Witness has, however, had sight of a document titled “Project Expenditure and Output Document for Rural Development”, which reveals that a five-kilometre stretch of the D173 was tarred at a cost of R5 536 602 in 2004/2005.

Lawyers said documents in their possession indicate that the road had been tarred as a matter of urgency before Christmas 2004.

This is not the first time that the tarring of the road to Ndebele’s farm has come under public scrutiny.

In August 2005, The Witness published an article in which residents in the area questioned why the D173 road had been tarred before the Otto’s Bluff road, which they claimed was a much busier route and in a “shocking condition” at the time.

Farmers reportedly battled in vain for nine years to persuade the Transport Department to tar the Otto’s Bluff road, which was said to be the scene of many accidents.

A local resident told The Witness at the time that a “substantial part of the less busy D173”, was tarred within a year after the premier’s wife, Zama Ndebele, had an accident on the road.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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