Taxi driver receives bail

2011-11-16 00:00

FAMILIES and supporters of the passengers who died in a taxi crash at Copesville on September 30 were unhappy with a magistrate’s decision to release the driver, Khululeka Gwala (23), on bail of R10 000 yesterday, but their spokesperson said they will respect the court’s ruling.

Thokozani community councillor Mlungisi Dlamini said five kombis and two bakkies brought 90 protesters to court yesterday to demonstrate their opposition to bail.

Their placard picket was supported by Transport MEC Willies Mchunu.

“We are feeling aggrieved. We are not happy right now, but it is the law. We will respect the decision of the court,” Dlamini said.

Transport Department spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said the department is appealing to the community to respect the court ruling and not to harm Gwala.

The amount of bail indicated that the court regarded the matter as serious, he said.

In a written statement the MEC welcomed remarks made by the magistrate indicating her concern about the increasing number of people losing their lives on the roads.

“There is still a long way to go with the trial.

“We hope motorists are learning a lesson from this case,” he said, adding that the department will continue to campaign for harsher sentences against transgressors on the road.

Magistrate Linda Lewis commented in her judgment that it was tragic enough when one person dies, but when 15 die and others are injured, no words can describe one’s feelings.

Responding to Gwala’s defence — that he blames brake failure for the accident — Lewis said this is a matter for the trial court to decide.

She found after consideration of the evidence led at the bail hearing that it is in the interests of justice to release Gwala on bail, but ordered him to live at a secret address (which was provided to the court by his attorney, Anthony Irons), and to report three times weekly to a police station.

The state’s opposition to bail being granted was based on submissions by prosecutor Rene Padayachee that the gravity and strength of the state’s case against Gwala were an incentive for him to abscond and evade trial, the fact he has no fixed address, that his safety could not be guaranteed having regard to the public outcry, and that he might pose a threat to witnesses.

The defence submitted that Gwala’s constitutional rights had already been infringed before his court appearance. It said he has a defence to the charges and that suitable conditions would ensure that he could not run away and evade trial.

It was also submitted on his behalf that his life was not in danger as he is able to live at an alternative address and that he is “willing to take the risk”.

The case was adjourned to December 13 for further investigation.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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