Crash pupils laid to rest

2015-02-02 00:00

AS six small coffins adorned with brightly coloured blankets and flowers entered the Edendale Lay Centre yesterday, the tightly packed hall erupted in a cacophony of weeping and mournful singing.

Walking along side her son’s coffin, a mother collapsed in grief and sobbed violently on the floor before family members helped her to her feet and led her to her seat.

Thousands filled the hall in a matter of minutes, with rows of chairs placed outside to accommodate the overflow.

With gospel music blaring, the crowd stood singing as they prepared to say their final goodbyes to the children who lost their lives in the Imbali horror crash on Wednesday last week.

Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela welcomed delegates and family in what he said was a sad day for all.

The hall soon erupted in songs of prayer until the father of crash victim Olwethu Vilakazi, Siboniso, stepped up onto the stage to pay tribute to his son.

As he shared memories of his son, days before the accident, Vilakazi brought the hall to tears.

“Olwethu was my prince. I am very shattered because we were very close … we were like brothers.”

He said when he heard about the accident he rushed to school and looked for his son’s bag, which the teachers refused to let him have.

After pleading with the Fezokuhle teachers they eventually handed over the bloodstained bag.

“I went through his bag with blood stains and found his half-filled juice bottle and his chocolate. I think he had kept it to share it with us at home.

“After looking through the bag, I went to the scene where I asked to see photos of the dead pupils, hoping my son had survived.

“I took the camera and went through three different photos first, then when I continued, I saw his photo. I could not believe it.”

Vilakazi said he went with police to see his son’s body and when he opened the body bag, it finally sank in that his boy was gone and wasn’t coming back.

Bandile Chamu’s grandmother, MamChamu, said it was a painful moment for the family.

“It’s very sad because we lost the future of this family,” she said.

The family representative of Sinenhlanhla Dlamini, Lethi Shange, said the family is still finding it difficult to accept Dlamini’s death as they feel she might walk through the door one day.

A woman who would only identify herself as MaShezi spoke on behalf of Yolanda Shezi’s family, and said the girl would be missed by all.

“She will be missed for her fast-learning skills, warmth and excitement that she brought to the family.

“We had high hopes for her because she enjoyed helping in our family business,” she said.

Education Department MEC Peggy Nkonyeni said the funeral of the six young children flooded her with memories of her son, who also died in a car accident a few years ago.

“Fezokuhle Primary School attracts many pupils in the Imbali area because of the quality of education.

“I checked the annual assessment results of Fezokuhle and saw the school is performing very well,” she said.

The MEC added that the province had a similar incident in Mooi River last year that saw five pupils lose their lives.

“We will be conducting an investigation to evaluate how many pupils or schools are using bakkies as a mode of transport.

“We will also investigate how many schools are in need of learner transport so that this incident does not repeat itself again.”

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu said his office was aware of transport problems in KZN and agreed that transporting children in the back of bakkies was a problem.

“Steps must be taken when it comes to the transporting of pupils,” said Mchunu.

“We have the learner transport programme [buses used to transport pupils to and from school in rural areas] but I still feel there should be another way.

“We must look at the problem, which is bakkies, and try to end them as a mode of transport, even if it’s not tomorrow,” he said.


SABELO Mchunu (6), brother of Sinakhokonke Mchunu who died in the accident, sat quietly next to his two grandmothers, eyes wide and glistening with tears.

Dressed in a smart black tuxedo, he looked at his sister’s coffin, not saying a word as his grandmothers spoke among themselves.

Sabelo went to Fezokuhle with his older sister but lived with his grandmother Ellen Hlongwane a few kilometres away.

On the day of the accident, Sabelo said goodbye to his sister as they both hopped onto separate bakkies, one which would take his sister away from him forever.

With tears trickling down his face, he was asked if he missed his sister, but could only nod slowly before bowing his head.

Grandmother Constance Shange said the whole family missed Sinakhokonke, who was “like a bright light in the family”.

“We nearly died of shock when we heard that she was involved in the horror crash but we thank God for blessing us with such an angel,” she said.

Her other grandmother, Ellen Hlongwana, said her granddaughter loved to sing and dance.

“She was very bright and such a happy child,” she said.

NINE-YEAR-OLD Thembeka Zondi, who survived the horror crash, sat stoically as the funeral wore on.

With the cast on her broken arm visibly beneath her bright pink jacket, Thembeka rested her other arm on the back of a chair and watched as the people around her stood to pray.

Thembeka said the day of the accident was a normal day and she got into the bakkie not suspecting anything.

“I don’t remember much from the accident,” she said.

“The last thing I saw was the bakkie flying towards the gate. Then I woke up in hospital.

“I suffered a head injury and I also broke my arm,” she said, as she pointed to where she felt pain.

Thembeka said she lost her very good friend in the accident and misses her everyday.

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