‘I feel their pain,’ says mom whose child died in Mooi River crash

2015-02-07 00:00

JABULILE Buthelezi (37) knows what it’s like to lose a child in a bakkie accident.

After hearing of the horrific accident that claimed seven lives in Imbali, painful memories of that fateful day when she lost her daughter came flooding back. “I feel their [the Imbali parents] pain, even though it’s been almost a year since we buried her,” said Buthelezi.

Her daughter, Nokwazi Phungula (12), died — along with Lindokuhle Mayekiso (seven), Amanda Khanyile (eight), Sindiswa Bhengu (11), and Phumlani Shelembe (17) — when a bakkie carrying 28 ­pupils from Senzokuhle ­Combined School in Rietvlei plunged into a sludge dam after the brakes failed. The driver, Phelelani Mchunu (25), is ­serving a five-year sentence for the May 12, 2014, accident.

“I was having tea with my colleagues when I heard about the Imbali accident. I started trembling, and I immediately went to the sink and poured out my tea. I could feel my eyes burning, they were filled with tears. I felt knots in my stomach and remembered my little girl,” said Buthelezi.

The farmworker said: “I am too old to have another child. We had a boy and a girl, and we were perfect. My son, Senzo (nine), sometimes sits quietly in the corner and starts crying. I think he misses her very much.”

The five parents, mostly farm workers in Nyamvubu, in the Elsmore farming area, are ­united in their grief. But they have found comfort — the ­Department of Transport has honoured its promise to ­provide alternative transport for the community. They ­believe that the two buses that were delivered to Senzokuhle Combined School last month will prevent more deaths.

Happiness Shezi (35), ­Lindokuhle Mayekiso’s mother, said her three remaining ­children use the school bus.

“The bus is much safer than the bakkies. I want to urge all parents to check the vehicles they put their children in ­because it was too late when we found out about the [faulty] brakes,” said Shezi.

She said the owner of the bakkie “has never shown ­remorse for what happened”.

“He can’t even look me in the eye and say he is sorry,” said Shezi.

Soft-spoken Khayeni ­Ndawonde (40) from Glen Rock said her husband, Mfiselo, still cries for Amanda.

“He misses her very much,” said Ndawonde.

Mbheki Bhengu (24), Sindisiwe Bhengu’s uncle, said he can still remember rushing to the scene of the accident and seeing the children’s bodies.

“We are really grateful for the buses; they have made a big ­difference in this community,” he said.

Victoria Shelembe (46) burst into tears when she spoke of her son, Phumlani.

It has been particularly difficult for the family because they owned the bakkie and the ­driver, Mchunu, was a relative.

Phumlani’s father, Joseph (62), said, “I am happy that no one uses bakkies any more. I feel guilty because that was my ­bakkie that killed my ­neighbour’s children.

“When Mchunu [his ­nephew] comes out [of jail], I am going to give him two cows because I know he did not mean to kill those children; it was an accident,” said Shelembe.

Education Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the buses were shared ­between Senzokuhle and ­Tauricus Primary School.

“The bus has definitely ­uplifted the community ­because some of the children used to walk about 10 ­kilometres,” he said.

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