Speed 'not excessive' in Zenani crash

2012-04-23 19:52
Johannesburg - The car in which 13-year-old Zenani Mandela was killed was not speeding on the highway curve where the accident occurred, the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court heard on Monday.

Defence attorney Kenny Oldwage asked accident investigator Henry Muller whether he had found evidence to suggest the driver, Sizwe Mankazana, 25, had gone fast enough to go out of the curve.

Muller said the fact that the car did not go over the viaduct wall indicated he had not exceeded the so-called critical curve speed.

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

Out of control

He was taking Zenani home after a World Cup concert at Orlando Stadium in Soweto in a Mercedes-Benz CLS500.

Zenani, the great-grand-daughter of former president Nelson Mandela, was asleep on the back seat of the car 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.

Earlier, 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 the driver to become disorientated, lose his grip on the steering wheel and disrupt his vision.

Freak accident

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

The court heard last Monday that Muller had stopped at the site of the accident before the crash occurred to tie back a piece of damaged barrier protruding into the road, using an electric cable.

According to Muller, that section of damaged barrier penetrated the right rear of the car, possibly causing the death of the child, sleeping on the back seat.

On Monday he said: "I am 100% sure that if the barrier was not damaged prior to the accident, we would have a completely different scenario."

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.

Appeared sober

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.

Responding to the accused's version of events, Muller said he was certain it "was never the intention of [Mankazana] that some sort of accident like this would have happened".

Muller said that Mankazana did not act like someone under the influence of alcohol at the scene of the crash.

"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, Muller said Mankazana appeared sober.

Madikizela-Mandela arrived at court walking with the aid of a crutch. The matter was postponed to Wednesday, when the State would call its witnesses.
Read more on:    sizwe mankazana  |  zenani mandela  |  johannesburg  |  accidents

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