Pupils die in school taxi

2012-08-07 00:00

TEN-YEAR-OLD Sphamandla Mncwabe and Olwethu Maphanga (six) left their homes in Vulindlela yesterday morning to attend school in nearby Elandskop.

Less than 12 hours later they lay dead — the latest statistic on the city’s roads — after the vehicle they were travelling in allegedly skipped a stop sign and ploughed into a bus on the Bulwer road.

Like many other children from Vulindlela attending the Nkabini Primary School, Sphamandla and Olwethu travelled in private transport to school and back daily. The return fare had gone up by R10 to R140 in August and Sphamandla’s family had been shopping around for cheaper transport.

Sphamandla, a Grade 5 pupil, would have used alternative transport from next month.

Eyewitnesses told The Witness that the driver of the bus hooted several times to alert the vehicle carrying Sphamandla and other school children to stop, but he was ignored. The vehicles collided.

Sphamandla and Olwethu were declared dead on the scene. Several other pupils from Nkabini Primary and Langalakhe High School were injured.

The driver of the vehicle taking the pupils was in a critical condition last night, police said.

A culpable homicide case is being investigated.

At the scene of the accident, ­Sphamandla’s mother, Thobile, had to be carried by family members to a car, after she watched the body of her son being loaded into the mortuary van.

“Where are they taking my son? I want my son,” she cried out.

In an effort to calm her, familiy members told her Sphamandla was being taken to hospital.

Later, at the Mncwabe home in Mbabane, Sphamandla’s aunt, Langelihle Colvelle, described her nephew as a “very bright kid”.

He had collected many trophies at school.

“He always came position one and was very playful and quiet at the same time,” Colvelle said.

She described how the family had found more affordable transport for him, which he was to have begun using next month.

Speaking from the family home, Olwethu’s father, Themba Maphanga, told The Witness: “What hurts me the most is that I didn’t get the chance to see her this morning.”

Olwethu, a Grade 1 pupil, loved reading and would often ask him to read to her, he said.

Busisiwe Zondi, a neighbour who is a teacher at Nkabini Primary, arrived at the scene a few minutes after the accident.

She said she would need counselling after what she had witnessed.

Nkabini Primary School principal Bheki Ndlovu said the pupils would receive counselling today.

Ndlovu said a Grade 1 pupil from the school died when she was knocked down by a car earlier this year while on her way home.

• gabisile.ngcobo@witness.co.za

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