Airbags could have caused Zenani crash

2012-04-23 16:51

Johannesburg - The deployment of airbags and damage to a tyre of the car in which 13-year-old Zenani Mandela was killed could have caused the fatal accident, the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court heard on Monday.

Accident investigator Henry Muller said it was possible that a decrease in tyre pressure, which could have been caused by a nail, could have contributed to the driver losing control.

The deployment of airbags could cause drivers to become disorientated, lose their grip on the steering wheel and disrupt their vision.

He was testifying at the trial of Sizwe Mankazana, 25, who faces charges of culpable homicide and reckless or negligent driving for the 11 June 2010 crash which claimed the teenager's life.

Zenani, the great-granddaughter of former president Nelson Mandela, was asleep on the back seat of the Mercedes-Benz CLS500 when it crashed. Her mother is Zoleka, the daughter of Zindzi Mandela.

The vehicle veered out of control on the M1 North just before the double-decker highway that bypasses the city.

Damaged barrier

Mankazana was taking Zenani home after a World Cup concert at Orlando Stadium in Soweto when the accident happened.

Muller previously testified that a barrier which Mankazana's car first collided with had previously been damaged.

Defence attorney Ken Oldwage asked whether the accident could be considered a "freak accident" in light of the evidence regarding the damaged barrier. Muller conceded it could be described as such.

Oldwage provided his client's version of events from the night of the crash.

Mankazana said he had driven to Zenani's great-grandmother, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's house with a police escort. Madikizela-Mandela asked him to take Zenani to his home in Parkhurst.

Mankazana said he was unfamiliar with the road and was driving at a moderate speed, not exceeding 100km/h, when he felt a jolt. A second jolt was felt soon after, during which the car might have spun. When the car came to rest he discovered the girl had been fatally injured.

Behaved like a gentleman

Earlier, Muller said Mankazana did not act like someone under the influence of alcohol.

"I could smell a little bit of alcohol. However it could have been on his clothes or from a bottle that was broken in the car [during the crash]."

Oldwage asked Muller whether he could recall telling Mankazana's father subsequently that his son had "behaved like a gentleman". Muller confirmed this.

Except for symptoms of shock, commonly observable in those who had been in an accident, Muller said Mankazana appeared sober.

Madikizela-Mandela arrived at court walking with the aid of a crutch.

The trial continues.

  • Irene - 2012-04-23 16:59

    How much has been put into Muller's back pocket I wonder.

      Joseph - 2012-04-23 17:14

      Irene. Let's fill you in here. Muller's answering questions under oath. Muller is a state witness, not a defence witness. It's the risk the state always runs when putting someone in the box - they're subject to cross-examination. More than likely the State didn't know about the tidbits that the defence had for their witness, like the fact that Muller said Mankazana acted like a gentleman. So for this information to come forward is not a case of bribery, it's simply that there are two sides to a story.

      JJ - 2012-04-23 17:24

      Thank you Joseph. Not everything is a blatant cover up, its a case of the State witness giving evidence under oath while being cross examined.

  • Rosemarie - 2012-04-23 17:11

    The investigator is a total idiot and making a fool of himself, I would like to cross examine him!

      caleb.finn1 - 2012-04-23 18:53

      Dear Rosemarie, you obviously have never met Mr Muller, he is one of the most experienced Accident Investigator's at Metro Police and an absolute asset to the city, he goes completely by the book and is very fair in the way he investigates, don't make personal comments about someone you obviously do not know...

  • maseratifittipaldi - 2012-04-23 17:22

    A shiny bottom of the barrel.

      James - 2012-04-23 20:09

      Thanks for your reply bent wheels,cracked windshield,inferior design.sounds like the car was not supposed to be on the road in the first place.

  • Tshidiso - 2012-04-23 17:25

    What’s Interesting and worrying, is that Sizwe Mankazana might end in jail for culpable homicide, whereas the policemen who brutally assaulted and fatally shot an unarmed father of 2, could be get a away with a slap on the wrist.\r\n\r\nit is a blatant demonstration of who qualifies for justice in Democratic South Africa.

  • Sharon - 2012-04-23 17:29

    He certainly is making a lot of assumptions!

  • george.pito - 2012-04-23 17:54

    Yeh and a Mercedes CLS 500 is known as a very unsafe car. Then it is an accident of spoiled kids. Thats the price you pay when you give kids powerful cars to drive with. So 100km/h Tracking unit slight jolt kid sleeping and the mother which so happened to big mamma asked him to take the kid home. Sorry we have crimes in this country to worry about not this.

      Totwe - 2012-04-23 20:24

      It is amazing how our personal stereotypes robs us of our humanness. Probably a case of "it will never happen to me" syndrome. Regarding the "spoil kids issue" - " he who says it, knows it"

  • Edward - 2012-04-23 18:26

    could have......maybe....... broken bottle containing alcohol in the same car a child was transported in????? sounds like a sorey is being fabricated here. is the accident was caused by a fault wityh the barrier, then the construction company involved must be held accountable.

  • rowan.maulson - 2012-04-23 18:38

    I'm sorry... Is someone saying a R1m+ vehicle doesn't have some kind of elementary Event Data Recorder in its computer system? Surely they would be able to tell what happened prior to the airbags deploying, such as what speed and where the speed reduced rapidly (aka hitting a barrier)

  • James - 2012-04-23 18:40

    OK. We are all ignorant fools Mr Mulder.\r\nAir bags deploy on impact. So the crash had happened all ready. At moderate speed The vehicle should have stopped.\r\nDoesn't this very expensive Merc get fitted with run flat tyres?\r\n Alcohol lying lose in the vehicle???.

      maseratifittipaldi - 2012-04-23 19:50

      James. These guys are experts. From what I heard, the front wheels were completely skew. The windscreen was badly cracked right in front of the driver, the bonnet was bent up, obscuring the driver's view, and the air bags kept popping out. Also, the MP3 player didn't work. Any one of these things could have caused the accident. Furthermore,the vehicle was of inferior design, with many inherent flaws which can lead to fatalities at any point in time. The loose bottle of alcohol in the car came from a pedestrian who in desperation tried to warn the driver of the extremely dangerous barrier lurking ahead, ready to strike.

  • eugene.meyer1980 - 2012-04-23 20:17

    But of course. How did we all over look this key piece of evidence. It was the possible nail, which could have possibly decrease the tyre pressure, which in turn could have possibly caused the driver to lose control of the car, while negotiating a bend. Hey, this Muller guy is good. A real expert accident investigator. I mean here we all sat and looked at the obvious things like speeding, and drinking under the influence, because no matter what car you drive if you speed while under the influence you will have difficulty negotiating any bend. But this Muller guy...heeeey... this man is good. Never in my wildest dreams would I have suspected a possible nail causing this accident. No this man, he will give justice to Zenzani's death. I mean this girl was young and still had a full life to live, but luckily we have people like Muller to bring justice to the lost live. I really hope that there is a special place for him… HELL!!!!!!!!!

  • ReportMe - 2012-04-24 09:09

    Log on to to report bad driving. Open the following link to view our facebook page

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