Victims’ families faced ‘inquisition’

2014-12-13 00:00

FAMILIES of those who died in the tests came in for a ­grilling as the Transport and Health departments ­attempted to distance ­themselves from the eight ­fatalities, a confidential ­report reveals.

The families suffered claims that their dead relatives had been heavy drinkers, had bad diets and insinuations that they were simply after the funeral cover.

But the RTI Commission of Inquiry found all the ­evidence by the families “to be reliable”, despite a ­sustained barrage of ­cross-examination questions about the dead competitors’ lifestyles and health in a search for ­other possible reasons for their deaths.

In some instances, families voiced dissatisfaction at the manner in which they were treated.

An emotional Thembinkosi Nxumalo, father of Lenny Nxumalo (28), had to fend off claims that his son drank heavily.

He disputed that Lenny had a habit of drinking of “24 pints of Savannah and two bottles of Johnny Walker whiskey on weekends” with two friends.

Nompumelelo Kunene, sister of Lindokuhle Kunene, was told her brother might have been overweight and also abused alcohol. She had to defend asking for her brother’s death certificate on the assumption that she wanted “to access a funeral cover”.

And while attempting to locate his ID book, Kunene said an official “asked them to wait a while”, saying she would search elsewhere. The official then joined a group at a nearby table and “started eating Dorito Chips”.

“They waited for a while until it became obvious that [the official] was paying no particular concern to the matter. The lady vanished and never came back,” read a summary of what Kunene told the commission.

Thandiwe Sibisi, mother of Ntuthuko Sibisi (28) who allegedly died of kidney ­failure, said the Transport Department “paid for some [of the funeral] expenses, but failed to pay for the hall and tent despite saying they would”.

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