Widow yet to be paid damages

2013-09-18 00:00

TUGELA Ferry widow Hluphile Zuma, who lost her hand and part of her arm in a 2004 taxi accident caused by a “massive pothole”, has yet to be paid damages despite judgment granted in her favour by a high court judge in December 2012.

An application by the province for leave to appeal the decision was dismissed by Judge Jan Combrink in May this year.

The case — which is currently awaiting only the final determination of the amount of damages payable to Zuma — was dealt another blow this week by the withdrawal of attorneys Strauss Daly Incorporated as the attorneys representing the premier and transport minister.

Asked yesterday for the reason why the law firm has withdrawn from the case, the spokesperson for the premier’s office, Ndabe Sibiya said it will be necessary for acting Premier Senzo Mchunu to “first get a report and all the details” from the lawyers before making any comment.

The Witness learnt that the case was ripe for a high court date to be set for the hearing of evidence relating to the quantum that is payable by the province to Zuma, when Zuma’s lawyer’s Afzal Akoo & Partners received notice on Monday that the province’s lawyers have withdrawn.

Zuma’s lawyers have obtained various expert reports and court papers estimate that she is entitled to claim damages totalling R11 098 300 in respect of her injuries.

Judge Combrink ruled in a judgment handed down in December last year that KZN’s premier and MEC for transport are liable to compensate Zuma.

He accepted evidence that the pothole responsible for the crash was nine metres long, 2,5 metres wide and 25 centimetres deep, forcing motorists to drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid going through it.

The pothole was situated on a busy provincial and tourist road — the R33 linking Pietermaritzburg (through Greytown, Tugela Ferry and Pomeroy) with Dundee and Vryheid.

The judge found that although the taxi driver, Zamani Langa, was also negligent for not slowing down as he approached the pothole, the province was obliged to pay all Zuma’s proven damages, as Zuma chose only to sue the premier and MEC for transport.

According to the taxi driver’s evidence, he was aware of the pothole, which had been in place for about a year. As he approached it, he drove onto the opposite side of the road to avoid it, but a bakkie approaching from around a bend at speed forced him to go back to his side of the road and hit the pothole. The taxi left the road, smashed into a rock face on the left and overturned.

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