Overtime link in fatal run test

2013-05-01 00:00

OFFICIALS ridiculed job applicants as they started collapsing during a fitness test at Harry Gwala Stadium.

Nonhlanhla Innocentia Mlambo, who fainted on the second day of the fitness tests following a run of nearly four kilometres in hot and humid conditions, also suggested that traffic officers delayed proceedings to benefit from overtime.

She was testifying for the second day before thecommission of inquiry into the deaths at December’s RTI recruitment session for trainee traffic officers.

“Traffic officers were saying that they were working OT, which meant they were working overtime in my … understanding. That is why we only ran later,” said Mlambo (31). She said she set off for her run at 7 pm, four hours after the scheduled start time.

The Road Traffic Inspectorate hosted two days of fitness tests on December 27 and 28 to whittle down a short-list of 40 700 people vying for 90 trainee posts.

Mlambo opened the testimony at the inquiry on Monday and continued yesterday, at one point breaking down as she recounted her ordeal. The commission is sitting at the Royal Showgrounds.

She said there were no marshals to assist the candidates with water during their mandatory run.

“Fortunately I was carrying my 1,5 litres of water so I was able to use that during the fitness test.”

Mlambo said that although she had finished within the qualifying time, she felt weak and dizzy and asked for help from a traffic officer controlling entry to the venue.

“I asked the officer to open the gate so that I could squeeze myself out and I had short prayer for God to give me strength to be able to walk to the paramedics,” she said.

Mlambo said one paramedic was busy, but she received help from his colleague. “After that I fainted and only woke the next day at Edendale Hospital.”

She said she could not walk for the whole week after participating and her kidneys were painful.

“I sometimes feel numb on my left hand and leg, which affects my driving because now I have to think about the distance that I am expected to travel and if I will have the strength to do so,” she said.

Mlambo described her experience as “painful to me and other participants because we were treated as though we were not human beings as officials took advantage of the fact that we were desperate and would do anything to get the job”.

She testified that officials made fun of those who were collapsing, saying, “We told you we don’t want people like you”.

Mlambo said some officers were heard saying of the candidates who died, “Why did they come here … they knew we wanted people who are fit”.

Eight people died as a result of the gruelling tests and more than 250 were treated in various hospitals over the two days.

On the second day, when Mlambo ran, candidates were asked to sign indemnity forms, which was not done on the first day.

“The traffic officers said you are going to sign these forms because you are all dying and your life is in these forms.”

The commission adjourned until tomorrow when Mlambo will be taken to Harry Gwala Stadium to point out the route of the run. She will be cross-examined later in the day.

• thobani.nggqulunga@witness.co.za

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