Taxi’s brakes ‘were fine’

2013-07-11 00:00

THE owner of the taxi that collided with a truck near Copesville in 2011, killing 15 people, testified that her vehicle’s brake pads were replaced five days before the accident.

Nonhlanhla Mpulo, the owner of the taxi, who was hospitalised for shock after the accident, said in court yesterday she was not aware of any problems with the taxi on the day of the accident.

Driver Khulekani Gwala (23), who faces 15 counts of murder and four of attempted murder relating to the collision, said the brakes failed.

Mpulo said that she was introduced to Gwala by one of her drivers and she then hired him. She said he had worked for her for three weeks before the accidentd.

Mpulo told the court that she met Gwala earlier on the day of the accident and he gave her the money he had collected on the previous day. She asked him to take two passengers she had been transporting in the taxi she was driving.

“If he told me on the day that the vehicle had problems, I would not have allowed him to carry passengers, but we would have sent the vehicle for repairs. I would have transported passengers with the taxi I was driving,” she said.

Mpulo said not even 15 minutes after Gwala had left her, she received a phone call telling her that he had been involved in an accident. She rushed to the scene.

In her evidence she made it clear that the taxi involved in the collision had been serviced several times by registered motor mechanics.

“I bought the car brand new in 2007 at Toyota in Howick and it’s been serviced. The Sunday before the accident it was fixed in Durban by another mechanic who replaced the brake pads,” she said.

Gwala’s attorney, Mohamed Motala, said during cross-examination that Gwala maintains he told Mpulo the taxi had brake problems but was told to squeeze two more passengers into an already full taxi.

Mpulo said that was a lie, as she did not know that the taxi was full and if she had known, she would have dropped the passengers at the taxi rank so they could have caught another taxi.

Motala said after the accident, Mpulo came to the scene and cried about her wrecked taxi until the police scolded her because she was more concerned about her damaged taxi than the passengers.

Mpulo denied this.

Investigating officer Lieutenant Sizwe Makhathini gave evidence that on the day of the accident, the usual conductor of the taxi was not present. He did not want to come to court and was not interested in testifying as he was not there when the accident occurred.

“I tried several times to contact him and even gave him a subpoena but he did not come to court,” said Makhathini.

The state closed its case and the defence is expected to start today.

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