Witness grilled in fitness test inquiry

2013-05-13 21:47
(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Pietermaritzburg - Testimony about a woman collapsing during a fitness test that claimed the lives of eight people was questioned at an inquiry into the matter on Monday.

It emerged that the witness had made an affidavit in which she denied seeing anyone collapse.

Nonhlanhla Mlambo was testifying at the commission, headed by Thandani Norman, SC, appointed by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize earlier this year to probe the deaths.

Eight people died after taking part in a 4km run at the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg in December, in a fitness test which formed part of recruitments by the Road Traffic Inspectorate.

More than 34 000 people qualified to apply for the 90 advertised trainee posts.

A total of 15 600 applicants attended a fitness test on 27 December and a similar number on 28 December.

An unknown number of them collapsed due to the heat. Many were taken to hospital.

Asked to read an affidavit Mlambo submitted to the commission in Pietermaritzburg in April, she said: "I did not see any of the participants collapse."

Mlambo said earlier on Monday that when she heard people shouting "She's falling, she's falling", she stood up on her seat in the stands and saw the woman collapsing on the grass.

Mlambo was being questioned by Ravi Padayachee, SC, for the KwaZulu-Natal transport department.

She denied Padayachee's assertion that she was embellishing the truth.

He accused her of "making up stories as you go along", but Mlambo said the denial in her affidavit related to 28 December, when she took part in the fitness test herself.

She told the commission she had also gone to the Harry Gwala Stadium with a friend the day before to see how the fitness test was being held.

That was when she had witnessed the woman collapsing.

Mlambo started to retch during cross-examination after lunch, and fled to the toilets.

One of Padayachee's assistants said: "I think she has a problem with the smoking."

Norman replied: "I thought this was a smoke-free building."

It emerged that the translator had smoked a cigarette during his lunch break. Another translator was then quickly appointed for Mlambo to continue testifying.

Padayachee also questioned Mlambo why she had claimed in her employment application that she was employed by Independent Newspapers, when in fact she was a sub-contractor for the company, delivering newspapers.

He said she had attempted to extract a letter confirming employment with the newspaper group, but that the Pietermaritzburg Bureau Manager Rogers Naidoo had refused to give her the letter.

She accused Padayachee of digging into her personal life and "approaching me as a criminal".

Padayachee retorted that he was merely attempting to establish Mlambo's credibility as a witness.

The inquiry continues.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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