May’s new lawyer concerned

2013-09-18 00:00

DISCUSSIONS are under way with Swaziland authorities, including police, in preparation for next month’s bail application of 23-year-old Sanele May, the driver in last week’s Pinetown truck accident, which left 23 people dead.

Speaking to The Witness, newly appointed lawyer for May, Professor Lindokuhle Mdletshe, said he was building a case to motivate for his client — a Swazi national, to be released on bail and return to his country pending his trial.

“Sanele is not at risk of averting his legal responsibilities in the matter because Swaziland has an extradition agreement in place with South Africa. I have already confirmed his physical address in Swaziland, spoken to the local authorities there, including the police, and received the documentation confirming Sanele’s details including his birth certificate. His family in Swaziland has also provided additional information to verify all information so courts here have the assurance about Sanele’s whereabouts,” said Mdletshe.

Responding to allegations by the truck owner, Gregory Govender, that May had provided fraudulent documents to secure a job with the company, Sagekal Logistics, Mdletshe said he would discuss this with his client later today. However, he said that even if that were true, it did not explain why May had been given a truck to drive that had faulty brakes to begin with.

Mdletshe also raised concerns at the ethics behind a decision by May’s initial lawyer, Thesan Pillay, to switch sides. Pillay was initially appointed by Govender to represent May when news of the accident first broke last week. However, he has since withdrawn from representing him to now acting for Govender.

“This is highly unethical in my opinion as the lawyer was among the first people to speak to Sanele and was also privy to confidential information passed to him during their discussions when Sanele was very emotional.

“He now becomes the party representing the other side and can potentially use that information against Sanele. It is highly unethical in my opinion to have a lawyer represent the one side, obtain privileged information and then switch sides,” said Mdletshe, adding that May was completely devastated at the deaths from the accident and was now dealt a further blow at what he saw as a betrayal of his former lawyer and employer.

However, in his response, Pillay dismissed suggestions that he was switching sides. “Firstly Sanele May at the outset was offered legal services to be paid for by the company, Sagekal Logistics. It was an option presented to him, which he decided to take.

“Secondly, it must be noted that there are no sides at this stage. My client, Gregory Govender, is not being prosecuted and we have not received any information of any intention to do so at this stage. If it ever came to that point, then at the very least he would be considered a co-accused in the matter, not an opposing side.

“I can also say that there has been no confidential information relayed to me during the course of my initial discussions with Sanele so there is no breach of client confidentiality,” said Pillay.

Meanwhile, Transport spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said the government believes Govender should be charged along with May in the matter, as their preliminary investigations had revealed the truck had a number of faults before it was handed over to him.

“We are going to ensure that we invoke all sections of the law to ensure the owner of the truck takes responsibility for his part in all of this. We must set a precedent that truck owners cannot simply pass the blame to drivers … when they too have a role to play in ensuring the safety and maintenance of their trucks,” said Ncalane.

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