Bus driver gets 6 years in jail

2013-03-26 20:51
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Cape Town - A man will spend six years in jail for the deaths of 23 people in a bus crash he caused, the Cape Town Magistrate's Court ruled on Tuesday.

Magistrate Bruce Langa sentenced Sisa Nonama, 41, to nine years' imprisonment, three of which would be suspended for five years.

This suspension was on condition that he not be convicted of culpable homicide involving a motor vehicle during that period.

The 23 counts of culpable homicide were counted as one for the purposes of sentencing, as they flowed from one incident.

Nonama was driving a bus from Leeu-Gamka to Cape Town in the early hours of the morning in May 2010 when he lost control of the vehicle on the Hex River Pass.

It was later revealed that Nonama was driving 20km over the speed limit, that he did not have the correct licence for driving the bus, and that the vehicle was not roadworthy.

The court also fined him R500 (or one year in jail) for not having the right licence, and R1 000 (or six months in jail) for the unroadworthiness of the vehicle. The sentences would run concurrently with the main sentence.

Langa said the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors and that "the imposition of a prison term was an inescapable conclusion".

Nonama's defence had been hoping for a fully-suspended jail term or correctional supervision.

"My view is that he should have foreseen the consequences of his actions given the dreadful conditions that prevailed on that road," Langa said.

He found the degree of negligence in this instance was serious rather than trivial.

"That people lost their lives and limbs makes it more serious."

He said there was a good reason why signage at the top of the pass had warned not to exceed the speed limit if driving a heavy vehicle.

It was concerning that public transport accidents, nonetheless, seemed to be increasing.

Taken into account were the economic factors of the accident, such as hospitalisation fees and the claims that had to be paid out by the road accident fund.

The court regarded certain mitigating factors such as Nonama being a first offender and the fact he pleaded guilty, thus saving the court time and money.

In doing so, he displayed genuine remorse for his actions and even wished he could have died in the accident because of the burden it had placed on his shoulders, Langa said.

Nonama was unemployed and responsible for the upkeep of his wife and six children.

He was also in a poor state of health. He had HIV, tuberculosis and renal failure.

The court found that while a medical certificate was handed in stating the condition and illnesses, it was not clear as to the seriousness and progression thereof.

"Medical evidence would have shed further light," Langa said.

"The fact that a person is ill does not [however] necessarily or automatically justify a non-custodial sentence."

Nonama would have 14 days to appeal his sentence.

Read more on:    cape town  |  accidents

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