No speed limit at Mandela crash site

2012-04-20 16:02

Johannesburg - There were no speed limit signs on the section of road where former president Nelson Mandela's great granddaughter Zenani died in a car crash 19 months ago, the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court heard on Friday.

Accident investigator Henry Muller said most drivers knew to start slowing in the area where the accident happened as they anticipated a speed camera on the double-decker freeway a little further on.

Muller is on the stand for the fourth day in the culpable homicide trial of Sizwe Mankazana, 25, the driver who was behind the wheel on the night 13-year-old Zenani died.

He was taking the child home from the Soccer World Cup concert at Orlando Stadium in 2010.

The accident happened on the M1 North just before the freeway. No other vehicles were involved. Mankazana was 23 at the time.

The court heard earlier in the week that he was new in the country at the time and unfamiliar with the route he was driving.

High performance vehicle

Muller said the speed of drivers negotiating the bend averaged between 70 and 90km/h. How fast Mankazana was driving has not been established by the court yet.

The Mercedes Benz CLS500 should have easily negotiated the bend, even at speed, as it was a high performance vehicle, Muller said.

He said he could not rule out driver error, though as the section of road was difficult to drive, if a driver lost concentration for even a second he could crash.

When probed by the defence on whether a mechanical fault could have caused the crash Muller said he could not rule this out, but added that the Mercedes was one of the safest cars on the road.

"It has all the necessary driver assists."

The court heard earlier that the car brushed against a steel barrier alongside the road as it veered out of control.

This barrier was broken and it penetrated the ill-fated car at exactly the point where the child was asleep on the back seat.

Had that barrier not been broken the car should have skimmed along against it.

The Mandela family, including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, her daughters Zindzi and Zenani, and the child's mother Zoleka have been in court every day as have Mankazana's parents, who are friends of the Mandelas.

  • Tony Lapson - 2012-04-20 16:16

    Here comes the blame. "Yes, I was driving the car... But it is the city's fault for me not knowing that speeding is wrong."

      Joseph - 2012-04-20 17:03

      I don't think that's the angle at all. You've completely created reasoning that's not there.

      Bless Boswell - 2012-04-20 18:02

      I can't understand why everyone is condemning the driver this way - we ALL mistakes from time to time. Thankfully not all of them are as disastrous as this, but one has to consider that if the barriers had been in good repair, perhaps the outcome might have been different - so there is liability on both sides. Not so?

  • Dieter - 2012-04-20 16:21

    bought the learners & licence - doesn't know the obvious rules of the road

      Joseph - 2012-04-20 17:05

      How did we get to this conclusion?

  • Rob - 2012-04-20 16:27 it not incumbent on the driver to observe the road and adjust speed accordingly? Well, then, if you do not know the road I guess that it is OK to just put foot and hope for the best. Of course we will now have the string of excuses and pass the buck, duck and dive, avoid responsibility. Boy, did us imperial colonists teach these guys something, or what!

  • Colin - 2012-04-20 16:44

    A 23yr old in a high performance car...100, 1000 speed restriction signs would NOT made any difference to his speed.

  • Judith - 2012-04-20 16:59

    That is is nonsense, the speed signs are there. However they are spaced out on the route. The speed limit was 100km where he was and he should have been slowing down for the 80km limit on the double decker. Another case of drunken driving resulting in a death. Cancel his licence and lock him up

      Jeff - 2012-04-24 15:55

      Check your facts and drive up the Selby on-ramp. There is no speed limit sign whatsoever, the first one you come across on that route is when you get to the double decker section of the freeway which is several hundred metres past the point where the collision occurred.

  • Joseph - 2012-04-20 17:01

    Guys some of your comments are ridiculous seriously. So, he was driving the folks' car home on a dark highway in Jhb, messes up a corner and hits the side barrier, and cause the barrier's broken it goes through the car door and kills the little girl. It's tragic yes, but if this was your son/brother/father/husband, would you really still be so anxious to see him convicted? Also, so what if it was a CLS500? If I went round there in my Citi golf and hit the same barrier that barrier would have gone through the car door and had the same effect. So yes, it may be an excuse, but lets not forget that it plays heavily into the death of that little girl. Had Mankazana hit a pot hole, crashed, and the girl died this would be a tragedy, you'd insult the ANC, and criticise the failure to maintain infrastructure! Is this really different?

      RoryKlein - 2012-04-20 17:17

      Nicely said Joseph. At the end of the day, both families are suffering, one has last a child and another's child will be put away for along time maybe even life. He possible made a mistake, but I do believe that people should be required to have the necessary "skill/training" to drive professionally in any form of capacity when driving a high performace vehicle.

      Joseph - 2012-04-20 17:22

      Thanks Rory. I agree with you. Only thing is he wasn't driving professionally - his folks are friends with the Mandelas and it was a case of your friend's son giving your daughter a lift home after a concert.

      RoryKlein - 2012-04-20 17:34

      Ok that's a completely different case, as I said this effects both families. I am sure he has regreted the day, every day since it happened. Putting him in jail would be a complete was of time in my opinion.

      Sharon - 2012-04-20 17:54

      I have to agree with you Joseph. It was an accident. The punishment already handed out by her death will be with the driver for ever.

      Bless Boswell - 2012-04-20 17:57

      Well said Joseph. This was and still is a tragedy. Had the barrier not been broken right at that point, this might have all turned out very differently. But it wasn't and it hasn't. All we can hope for is a fair outcome and that both families can come to terms with what is an extremely painful and difficult situation.

      Atholl - 2012-04-20 20:54

      Surprisingly enough, there are two methods to install these barriers ... ... the right way and the wrong way. ... both ways are dominated by the [[ direction ]] of the traffic. ... every barrier overlaps the adjacent one ... like scales on a fish which overlap smooth from front to back and course from back to front The right way ... the overlap runs smooth with the traffic direction The wrong way ... the overlap runs course with the traffic direction. ...... just surmising ... .. could it be that the 'accident' (regardless of the speed, licence, high perf vehicle, day/night, driver ability etc) could have been lessened if the barrier was installed correctly ?? ... in the 80's/90's a F1 driver was severely injured when his F1 motor vehicle hit a barrier that was installed incorrectly (course overlap)? ... Are ALL barriers on All freeways installed correctly with the correct overlap ?? .... i don't think so ..

  • Alaina - 2012-04-20 17:07

    Well I don't know about you, but if I'm driving on an unfamiliar road, at night, I don't drive at any kind of speed that can cause me to lose control of the car. Especially if I am carrying passengers and I don't know the speed limit. It's a pathetic excuse.

      Aristar - 2012-04-21 06:41

      Stupidity knows no bounds. If obtaining a drivers licence required some sort of intelligent test other than memory everyone would be walking. The education system requires memory not the ability to apply what is learnt.

  • willie.uys - 2012-04-20 17:37

    I am a Senior Citizen and when we learnt how to drive you were taught to take special note of the condition of the road; the surroundings as well as the weather and othercircumstances - and adjust your speed accordingly. After a party and early in the morning when one is obviously not as "sharp" as ons should be, even more care should be taken. It really is a tragic thing and so sad for the families that are involved.

  • - 2012-04-20 18:12

    the thing about these drivers, esp the ones driving so-called vip's, drive too fast. they have to abide by traffic rules just like every other citizen. this is like giving them a licence to kill. there's no rush, really!!

      Aristar - 2012-04-21 06:43

      Agreed. There is nothing that urgent. Death has loads of time and it is permanent.

  • Sharon - 2012-04-20 18:19

    The article states that he was new in the country, but not whether he has a licence, South African or otherwise. It is difficult to draw conclusions without that information. Also, had he been drinking?

      Louise - 2012-04-20 21:05

      The question of alcohol is critical - the police didn't test him. He was young, probably in high spirits after the match and human. I just feel that because it's MADIBA'S great grand daughter, the ONE occasion that one would have hoped the police don't mess up, was THIS one. After everthing Mandela did for this country and its people, couldn't the police just respond in kind by ensuring Madiba receives proper service delivery?

  • Jacques - 2012-04-20 19:12

    so the ill maintained barrier played a big role in the death, hmmm how many ill maintained roads have claimed lifes so far???

  • maseratifittipaldi - 2012-04-20 20:12

    Hey man! This is SO scary! The thinking. The attitude. No wonder so many people are killed on our roads. In WHATEVER situation or circumstance, THE DRIVER is ALWAYS responsible. When one starts relying on speed limits, warning signs, road barriers and such for road safety, you are definitely moving in the wrong direction as far as road safety is concerned. There is no substitute for competence.

      Eugene Walters - 2012-04-20 20:56

      I can tell you what the problem is : A learner gets a drivers licence by passing out at aspeed of 6 0 kmh still completely inexperience now gets behind the wheel of a high performance car puts foot in the hook suddenly something happens infront of him, no clue bakes and swerves at the end loses control wht happens next only the driver can tell

  • Aristar - 2012-04-21 05:24

    Lucky packet driver.

  • pws69 - 2012-04-21 09:33

    I use this highway, there is a speed reduction sign about 1km earlier.

      Hendrik - 2012-05-26 23:31

      Can we get some statistics on that particular road the one with no speed signs where the accident had happend? How many vehicles are on that road through that dangerous bend every 24 hrs? How many accidents happen every 24 hrs, monthly and yearly on that road at that bend? when was the last accident before the accident of Mr. Mandela's granddaughter? When was the first accident after the accident of Mr. Mandela's granddaughter? Iam afraid, on evaluation of the information , anyone can judge the recklessness driving of Sizwe Mankazana.

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