Tragedy probe was awash with lies

2014-12-13 00:00

KEY witnesses into the ­disastrous 2012 traffic officer ­recruitment drive have been found to have lied and misled a commission of inquiry.

The Weekend Witness can ­exclusively reveal — after gaining access to a nearly 600-page summary of the evidence of more than 40 witnesses that ­testified — that key senior officials were found to have deliberately tried to mislead the Road Traffic Inspectorate Commission of Inquiry and shift the blame to anyone but themselves.

The document titled RTI Commission Report Part B — released to Pietermaritzburg resident Jane Harley after a successful Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application — for the first time sheds light on which officials may be disciplined, suspended and even criminally charged.

On December 27 and 28, 2012, over 35 000 hopefuls descended on Harry Gwala Stadium, Pietermaritzburg, to compete for just 90 vacant traffic officer trainee posts.

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

The commission was set up several months later.

The commission — led by Advocate Thandi Norman — found that two senior traffic officials attempted to ­“minimise their role” by shifting responsibility and failed to alert their superiors to the ­impending disaster.

Hamilton Nzimakwe, Department of Transport Control Provincial Inspector for Pietermaritzburg, was found to be “not candid about his role”. He was found to have jointly formulated the recruitment plan with his Zululand-based ­opposite Fanana Sibiya, without informing the RTI, the recipient of the new recruits.

“It is clear that this witness was very much involved.

“His attitude of leaving ­everything to HR is not in line with what is expected of a senior official in his position.”

The commission was equally scathing of Sibiya.

“He was expected (like ­Nzimakwe) to ensure that the MEC (Community Safety and Liaison, Willies Mchunu or the HOD ) be alerted to the fact the hospitals and EMRS were ­requesting the event be stopped. He failed to do what was ­expected of him as a senior ­official of the department”.

Sibusiso Sithole, KZN DoT senior manager for special ­operations — who told the ­commission he was intricately involved in the event, including verifying the route, arranging medical personnel and allocation of staff — had almost all his evidence rejected.

“We were of the view that whatever arrangements were made by Sithole were simply informal. He has not attached anything to support the arrangements allegedly made with the various people,” states the record.

The actions of the Transport Department’s human resources GM Miranda Zwane – who admitted to being in charge of the recruitment process — in allowing the event to continue to meet “some self-created urgency of ­January 14, 2013”, was found ­“reckless”.

“Some of the deaths and the injuries could have been avoided,” said the report. The commission dismissed her claim that there would have been “a riot” had the event stopped and that the event was “well organised and planned”.

“She totally disregarded the interests of the participants ... towards protecting them from harm,” said the commission.


In August, Premier Senzo Mchunu announced the commission, which ran for over a year, had finalised its findings but he gave no details except that officials would face ­disciplinary action, others would be criminally charged and that the event organisation was a shambles as inadequate water and medical services were provided.

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