RTI starts to pay out victims

2015-03-10 00:00

THE victims of the December 2012 RTI recruitment disaster have started receiving compensation, but there is still no clear indication of when the officials found to have had a part in the fiasco will face any disciplinary or criminal charges.

The families of the eight people who died in the tragedy will be individually visited to calculate the compensation they will receive.

The KZN Transport Department has also indicated that it will “guarantee” payments for the children of the dead victims and that “a senior member” is being assisted by “attorneys to formulate charges” against officials implicated.

On February 26, the department paid out R10 000 each to 18 individuals injured or hospitalised at the ill-fated training camp, in line with recommendations made by the commission of inquiry into the incident.

In accepting the payments, the individuals were required to sign a document stating they would not pursue any further legal action against the department.

A source close to the process said one of the injured who suffered from heatstroke, and liver and kidney injuries, was promised an amount of R100 000 by the commission, but did not collect his payment.

Department head Sbu Gumbi said the payments to the 18 individuals “were straightforward payments with no legal issues”.

He said the families of the dead would be individually visited by actuaries to ascertain their compensation.

Gumbi would not be drawn into committing to a time frame for when officials, recommended by the commission to be investigated, would face disciplinary hearings.

“The disciplinary process is a complicated matter. We need to formulate a report [before we proceed].”

The commission recommended disciplinary steps be taken against ­department officials Sibusiso Sithole, Miranda Zwane, Fanana Sibiya and Hamilton Nzimakwe, who has since died.

Gumbi said criminal cases have been opened and they are “interacting” with the Alexandra police station.

The Witness has ascertained that he was referring to the eight inquest dockets opened shortly after the December tragedy. Police sources confirmed that no official has been criminally charged.

Pietermaritzburg resident Jane Harley, who has campaigned on behalf of the victims, was told in an e-mail by Office of the Premier special adviser Linda Zama that “because each family needs to know the findings of the actuaries on quantum, they were advised that they would be advised [on compensation] individually”.

Zama confirmed that the “process of charging the implicated officials” was being handled by “a senior member” with the assistance of “attorneys”.

She said those victims who have children “were advised to obtain letters guaranteeing payment” by the department “so that no child stays at home for lack of funds while the claims are being finalised”.

The victims were among over 35 000 hopefuls who descended on Pietermaritzburg’s Harry Gwala Stadium on December 27 and 28, 2012, to compete for 90 trainee traffic officer posts.

Seven people died as a result of dehydration during fitness tests in extreme heat, while one was found dead with a stab wound in his neck.

CONFIDENCE in anyone being charged over the RTI trainee deaths is low, even among families who lost loved ones.

Mthetho Wamba, father of Lungile Wamba, who died of hyperthermia, said an actuary has yet to visit his home.

“The officials involved should have been suspended immediately, whether on pay or not, to allow this investigation to continue. I believe they will just want to compensate us and won’t prosecute,” said Wamba.

He said the families may be “expecting millions”, but at this point they have very little idea of what they will receive.

Wamba said on February 5, he and other families were called to Pietermaritzburg and given an update on proceedings.

He said they were told they would be “visited by actuaries” who would calculate their final compensation.

Pietermaritzburg resident Jane Harley believes that authorities are “trying to let people forget about it [the deaths]”.

“This has been going on for too long. I believe they will have an internal disciplinary hearing, there will be scapegoats and certain people will be protected,” said Harley.

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