Victim limps on as cop cleared

2012-05-26 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL’S second most senior police officer is off the hook after being involved in an accident that left an Ashburton man severely injured.

It is alleged that the province’s deputy police commissioner, Major General Phindile Radebe, was speaking on her cellphone when she crashed her black Mercedes-Benz into a taxi on Pope Ellis Drive in August last year.

Radebe, who was promoted to major general in October last year, was the provincial spokesperson for the SA Police Service at the time.

Last week, the acting Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the province, Cyril Mlotshwa, decided to drop the negligent and reckless driving charges against her due to lack of evidence.

The driver of the taxi, Thembinkosi Phakathi, now walks with the aid of a walking stick, and sometimes has to use a wheelchair.

He also has to make regular trips to Northdale Hospital for check-ups for his spinal injury.

The Witness reported last year that at the time of the accident Radebe was on her way to a Women in Dialogue workshop.

Phakathi said the accident happened because Radebe had failed to stop at a stop sign.

“I was approaching an intersection when I saw a woman driving a black Mercedes Benz and speaking on her cellphone. I thought she would stop at the stop sign, but she did not, and collided into the left side of my car.”

Phakathi said that he tried walking over to Radebe’s car, which was lying in wreckage not far from his, but his injuries prevented him from doing so.

A police officer who had been driving in front of deputy police chief was the first to respond, and after speaking to Phakathi, he went over to Radebe’s car to try to take down the registration number and statement.

“He came back to me and told me that the person who had just hit me was a police officer, and that police officers do not arrest each other.”

After a while other officers arrived on the scene, and they refused to tell him anything, seemingly protecting Radebe, he said.

“One came to me and told me I was lucky I did not die.”

He was taken to Northdale Hospital in a serious condition.

“I can’t believe they have decided not to prosecute,” an angry Phakathi said last week.

“It means that she also won’t be taken to court should she kill someone,” he added.

He said it had cost him R174 000 to fix his taxi.

In an SMS sent to Weekend Witness, National Prosecuting Authority’s spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson said: “He [Mlotshwa] declined to prosecute due to there being no prospects of a successful prosecution.”

Ramkisson said that Radebe had written to the DPP’s office to make a representation as to why she had opposed the summons that was issued.

After Mlotshwa had called for the docket, it was established that the evidence was not sufficient to pursue the case in court.

She said either party could still take the matter further in a civil case.

“She says he bumped into her, and he says she bumped into him, so they can both take it further,” said Ramkisson.

Ramkisson said Radebe had argued against the claim that she was speaking on her cellphone when the accident occurred, insisted that she had been using a Bluetooth device.

Radebe refused to comment on the accident, the charges being dropped and the allegation that she had been speaking on her cellphone when the accident happened, directing all questions to the communications department.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said that following the decision not to prosecute, the case was closed.

“The motor vehicle accident was thoroughly investigated and the case docket was forwarded to the DPP for a decision,” said Naicker.

“As with most vehicle collisions, the DPP has declined to prosecute any of the two drivers in the matter,” he said.

“The case is regarded as finalised and we do not want to comment on any allegation levelled at any one of the drivers as we are convinced that the DPP has taken all of the evidence into consideration before making a finding.”

Suspended police chief General Bheki Cele, who was the national police commissioner at the time, refused to comment when contacted by Weekend Witness.

• lunga.biyela@witness.co.za

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