Families forgive negligent driver

2019-03-01 15:02
Bongani Khulekani Gwala, who was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for culpable homicide after a taxi crash that killed 15 people, publicly apologised to the affected families.

Bongani Khulekani Gwala, who was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for culpable homicide after a taxi crash that killed 15 people, publicly apologised to the affected families. (nokuthula khanyile)

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Families who lost their loved ones as a result of negligent driving by former taxi driver Bongani Khulekani Gwala, have forgiven him for causing the deaths.

But the tragedy of that day will always be with them.

It was a sorrowful day at the Crammond Community Hall on Thursday as families came face to face with Gwala for the first time since he was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in July 2013 for 15 counts of culpable homicide.

Some of the relatives had to be escorted out of the hall as emotions ran high. Others fainted, and some wept so loudly that social workers had to assist with counselling outside the hall, while one elderly woman had to be taken to a nearby clinic.

Speaking to the families, Gwala said he had had no intention to kill his passengers, but admitted that he had driven recklessly and dangerously without any regard for the safety of his passengers.

“I was in a hurry to get back to Thokozani for another load as it was month end,” he said.

“I overtook bumper-to-bumper traffic on a blind rise and failed to avoid an oncoming truck. I tried to hit the brakes, but it was too late,” Gwala said.

The collision happened in rush-hour traffic on the morning of September 30, 2011. The taxi overturned and was dragged down an embankment by the truck, which came to rest on top of the taxi. Thirteen occupants of the taxi died at the scene and two others died in hospital later.

Gwala, who was 23 at the time, said after the crash, he was immediately taken away by police and did not see how many people had been killed.

“I did not see a lot of what happened, but the police told me how many people had been killed because of me,” said Gwala.

“I’m very sorry for what happened. It was not my intention to kill your loved ones. It was an accident.”

Gwala suffered superficial injuries in the crash.

“What happened that day will always be a fresh wound. Every time I see images of accidents on television I am reminded of how many people lost their lives because of me. After the accident happened, I wanted to come to the families to apologise but I didn’t know how,” he said.

A relative of one of the 15 people who were killed in the taxi crash being escorted out of the hall after collapsing. 

Collen Brown was one of the people to offer Gwala his forgiveness.

He lost his mother, Zandile Zondi, and sister, Ntombikayise Zondi.

Brown said he had left home early that day to queue at the Pietermaritzburg Home Affairs office, where he was set to apply for his identity document. At the time of the accident, his mother and sister had been on their way to town to meet up with him.

“That day I lost everything that has ever mattered to me. I was in Grade 10 and I had to drop out of school. My mother, who was my everything, whom I had wanted to one day provide for, was gone. Nothing else mattered,” he said.

Brown said after waiting for his mother and sister in the queue for hours, he got a phone call alerting him that his mother and sister had been killed in a taxi accident.

“I forgive you wholeheartedly. Holding a grudge will not bring back my mother,” Brown told Gwala.

Sibusiso Mchunu lost his mother, Zibuyile Duma, and mother-in-law, Selvina Shangase — both in their late 60s — in the crash.

What was supposed to have been Mchunu’s happiest day — his graduation — turned into a nightmare.

While waiting for Duma and Shange in the CBD, with whom he was supposed to drive to Durban for the graduation festivities, Mchunu was told they had been killed.

“No one is perfect, we all make mistakes. The Bible teaches us to forgive and although we lost our mothers we forgive you,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  offender's public apology
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