All they want is closure

2013-01-10 00:00

FAMILIES of the applicants for trainee traffic officer posts who died while undergoing a recruitment fitness test, were disappointed that there was still no word about a commission of inquiry into the tragedy.

This after they went to the memorial service at the City Hall yesterday expecting answers, but all they got were political speeches.

The father of one of the victims, Thembinkosi Nxumalo, walked out of the services in disgust.

“I could not sit longer at the City Hall as it was hot. Sitting there was not going to bring my son back.

“He was the only one working in my family; his children will need assistance,” he said.

His son, Lenny, died together with seven others while trying to pass the fitness test in sweltering heat of about 33 degrees Celsius on December 27.

He said all that his family wanted was closure.

They want to know how their loved ones died; who was responsible for the gross negligence that brought about their deaths and that those found responsible are brought to book.

Instead they were told that there would be some form of inquiry, but with no specific details.

His words were echoed by the family of Xolani Gumede and Sanele Ngcobo, who said they also attended the memorial service expecting to get assurance that there will be a thorough inquiry into how their loved ones died.

They also wanted time frames as they suspected the matter would be dragged out and eventually swept under the carpet.

The families were also disappointed that they were not given a chance to speak and had to sit through a memorial service that lasted over four hours.

“We expected to get answers from them, but they did not give us any information on the inquiry.

“We really need answers,” said Gumede’s sister Angela. She added that they felt disrespected as family representatives were not called on to speak.

Instead, politicians and priests were given the platform.

“They were politicking while we are grieving. In the end they called one person to represent all the families. We came all the way from Manguzi, but did not get answers nor a chance to tell people about my brother,” Angela said.

The Witness was told that the KZN Department of Transport paid the costs for the families to attend the memorial service.

This time, officials took no chance with the heat. Bottled water was distributed to all the people in the hall during the four-hour service and paramedics were on stand-by, ready to offer support to those family members showing physical symptoms. The families were also served tea and lunch.

Asked if there was any other compensation from the department, families were reluctant to discuss this aspect, saying that this was not their concern at the moment, all they wanted was answers on the deaths of their loved ones

Transport MEC Willies Mchunu described what happened as a “grave mishap”. He said some three years ago the department decided to stop employing people while it re-structured. He said they finished the restructuring process last year and decided to employ more traffic officers.

“Physical fitness tests are an important aspect of the procedure which is followed when recruiting new officers,” Mchunu said.

He said that he also wanted to know whether there was pre-planning with regards to the provision of water for the participants, whether there was first aid and emergency personnel on stand-by.

“I asked about the length of the distance, and the other issues surrounding this matter, which now forms part of the official investigation currently under way in this respect,” said Mchunu.

He added that a report was compiled and was now in the hands of KZN premier Zweli Mkhize, who will decide what should happen from next.

Mkhize called on people to be patient and added that now that he had the report from Mchunu, a formal process of inquiry will begin, conducted by transport experts, but not officials within the department.

He said now was not the time for finger pointing and thanked opposition parties for not using the incident for political point scoring.

Opposition parties and religious leaders have called for a commission of inquiry into the incident.

Mkhize said the KZN Christian Council’s request for representation in the commission would be considered.

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