Airbags could have caused Zenani crash

2012-04-23 16:51
Johannesburg - The deployment of airbags and damage to a tyre of the car in which 13-year-old Zenani Mandela was killed could have caused the fatal accident, the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court heard on Monday.

Accident investigator Henry Muller said it was possible that a decrease in tyre pressure, which could have been caused by a nail, could have contributed to the driver losing control.

The deployment of airbags could cause drivers to become disorientated, lose their grip on the steering wheel and disrupt their vision.

He was testifying at the trial of Sizwe Mankazana, 25, who faces charges of culpable homicide and reckless or negligent driving for the 11 June 2010 crash which claimed the teenager's life.

Zenani, the great-granddaughter of former president Nelson Mandela, was asleep on the back seat of the Mercedes-Benz CLS500 when it crashed. Her mother is Zoleka, the daughter of Zindzi Mandela.

The vehicle veered out of control on the M1 North just before the double-decker highway that bypasses the city.

Damaged barrier

Mankazana was taking Zenani home after a World Cup concert at Orlando Stadium in Soweto when the accident happened.

Muller previously testified that a barrier which Mankazana's car first collided with had previously been damaged.

Defence attorney Ken Oldwage asked whether the accident could be considered a "freak accident" in light of the evidence regarding the damaged barrier. Muller conceded it could be described as such.

Oldwage provided his client's version of events from the night of the crash.

Mankazana said he had driven to Zenani's great-grandmother, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's house with a police escort. Madikizela-Mandela asked him to take Zenani to his home in Parkhurst.

Mankazana said he was unfamiliar with the road and was driving at a moderate speed, not exceeding 100km/h, when he felt a jolt. A second jolt was felt soon after, during which the car might have spun. When the car came to rest he discovered the girl had been fatally injured.

Behaved like a gentleman

Earlier, Muller said Mankazana did not act like someone under the influence of alcohol.

"I could smell a little bit of alcohol. However it could have been on his clothes or from a bottle that was broken in the car [during the crash]."

Oldwage asked Muller whether he could recall telling Mankazana's father subsequently that his son had "behaved like a gentleman". Muller confirmed this.

Except for symptoms of shock, commonly observable in those who had been in an accident, Muller said Mankazana appeared sober.

Madikizela-Mandela arrived at court walking with the aid of a crutch.

The trial continues.

Read more on:    sizwe mankazana  |  zenani mandela  |  johannesburg  |  accidents

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