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Bus driver gets 6 years in jail

2013-03-26 20:51

Cape Town - A man will spend six years in jail for the deaths of 23 people in a bus crash he caused, the Cape Town Magistrate's Court ruled on Tuesday.

Magistrate Bruce Langa sentenced Sisa Nonama, 41, to nine years' imprisonment, three of which would be suspended for five years.

This suspension was on condition that he not be convicted of culpable homicide involving a motor vehicle during that period.

The 23 counts of culpable homicide were counted as one for the purposes of sentencing, as they flowed from one incident.

Nonama was driving a bus from Leeu-Gamka to Cape Town in the early hours of the morning in May 2010 when he lost control of the vehicle on the Hex River Pass.

It was later revealed that Nonama was driving 20km over the speed limit, that he did not have the correct licence for driving the bus, and that the vehicle was not roadworthy.

The court also fined him R500 (or one year in jail) for not having the right licence, and R1 000 (or six months in jail) for the unroadworthiness of the vehicle. The sentences would run concurrently with the main sentence.

Langa said the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors and that "the imposition of a prison term was an inescapable conclusion".

Nonama's defence had been hoping for a fully-suspended jail term or correctional supervision.

"My view is that he should have foreseen the consequences of his actions given the dreadful conditions that prevailed on that road," Langa said.

He found the degree of negligence in this instance was serious rather than trivial.

"That people lost their lives and limbs makes it more serious."

He said there was a good reason why signage at the top of the pass had warned not to exceed the speed limit if driving a heavy vehicle.

It was concerning that public transport accidents, nonetheless, seemed to be increasing.

Taken into account were the economic factors of the accident, such as hospitalisation fees and the claims that had to be paid out by the road accident fund.

The court regarded certain mitigating factors such as Nonama being a first offender and the fact he pleaded guilty, thus saving the court time and money.

In doing so, he displayed genuine remorse for his actions and even wished he could have died in the accident because of the burden it had placed on his shoulders, Langa said.

Nonama was unemployed and responsible for the upkeep of his wife and six children.

He was also in a poor state of health. He had HIV, tuberculosis and renal failure.

The court found that while a medical certificate was handed in stating the condition and illnesses, it was not clear as to the seriousness and progression thereof.

"Medical evidence would have shed further light," Langa said.

"The fact that a person is ill does not [however] necessarily or automatically justify a non-custodial sentence."

Nonama would have 14 days to appeal his sentence.

Comments
  • Colin Taylor - 2013-03-26 21:06

    6 years in jail for causing the deaths of 23 people. I have no words for this tragic incident. It's just indicative of what transpires on South African roads on a daily basis. Something has to be done regarding fraudulent drivers permits and unroadworthy vehicles, not to mention the state of our roads and lack of respect for fellow road users.

      Sheilan Clarke - 2013-03-27 08:47

      @Mark "He is not a cold blooded killer who planned and carried out the murder of 23 victims..." Hence he was charged with culpable homicide.

      heinrich.spreeth - 2013-03-27 09:25

      @Mark. Both You and Mr. Nonama are not understanding the responsibility you have when you transport passengers as a business or even just as a favor. Their lives are YOUR responsibility! If you cannot understand that you must find another job. IT does frustrate me that the Road accident fund must pay up for his mistake! If he had proper insurance. I would not have to pay so much per liter of petrol.

      CliveK - 2013-03-27 12:54

      Mark, remember that accidents don't just happen - they are caused, 99% of the time by human error or, in this case, willfully disobeying the rules and laws relating to the particular situation. Once again a totally inadequate punishment for a whole lot of avoidable deaths.

  • Mike Suter - 2013-03-26 21:30

    So he does 6 yrs and then can go back to driving a bus ???? Surly he should be banned from driving any motor vehicle for life and get at least 5 yrs per person killed . What message does this send out to all the reckless drivers out there ? and the government says it is serious about making the roads safer ?

      Sydney Mkansi - 2013-03-27 08:45

      indeed sentence is very short,it was suppose to be 5 yrs imprisonment per each person died.The bus owner should come to the party as well why his bus operated without valid Disc??

  • Abner M. Mophethe - 2013-03-26 21:30

    surely the roadworthiness of the bus played a role in the death of these people,why is the owner of the bus not taking part of the blame for this trajedy caused by his vehicle?

  • Jaco Grobler - 2013-03-26 21:35

    Moral of the story, you have to think long and hard before using long distance bus services. How on earth can a unlicensed driver get to drive a public/private bus ? It is crazy !!!! Done lots of travel in Moz and Uganda, bus service in SA heading the same way ?

  • Raj Maharaj - 2013-03-26 22:32

    This judge has his wires crossed. Not all drivers have mechanical minds. Therefore he should hold the driver accountable for the excess speed provided there is proof thereof and for not posessing a valid license for that purpose of vehicle, and the owner accountable for unroadworthyness of the vehicle. Condolences to the family and friends of those that lost their lives in the accident. That is if this was an accident, however negligence is a different story altogether.

      Sipho Marete - 2013-03-27 06:59

      If a driver fails to recognise the roadworthiness of a vehicle, he is then incapable of driving that vehicle. Driving a vehicle goes far deeper than just sitting behind the steering wheel while the vehicle is in motion.

  • Shai Wa Milliecent Mpfunzeni - 2013-03-27 06:31

    Yah he deserve he kill many people ?

  • Vivian Harris - 2013-03-27 06:32

    Wow....only 6yrs for killing 23 people. Way to go SA.

  • deon.duplessis.144 - 2013-03-27 06:47

    shocking, 6 years for 23 lives. it does not even start to compute

  • Sipho Marete - 2013-03-27 06:54

    The owner of the bus should also be charged.

  • CliveK - 2013-03-27 12:58

    Yet again the courts have failed to treat the carnage on our roads as a serious matter; nothing will change until they do. A person who caused 23 deaths will be out after 2-3 years. Shocking!

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