Taxi driver: Duduzane Zuma may not have been able to avoid crash

2019-03-26 15:57
Duduzane Zuma in the dock at the Randburg Magistrate's Court on March 26.

Duduzane Zuma in the dock at the Randburg Magistrate's Court on March 26. (Riaan Grobler)

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After several delays and postponements, the culpable homicide case of Duduzane Zuma, son of former president Jacob Zuma, finally kicked off in the Randburg Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.  

Dressed in a black suit, black shirt and tie, Zuma entered the courtroom shortly before 09:00 and waved at the media before chatting to his counsel.

His father was not present.

Zuma initially faced two charges of culpable homicide and a count of negligent driving relating to a car crash on February 1, 2014, on the M1 highway in Gauteng.

On the day, he was driving his Porsche when it crashed into the side of a minibus taxi, resulting in the death of Zimbabwean national, Phumzile Dube.

However, at the start of the proceedings, prosecutor Yusuf Baba indicated that one culpable homicide charge would be withdrawn. 

Pre-existing condition

Though Nanki Jeanette Mashaba, who was injured in the accident, died in hospital several weeks later, her death was owing to a pre-existing condition and was not because of the accident, Baba said.  

Zuma pleaded not guilty to the remaining charges in an affidavit his counsel, advocate Mike Hellens, SC, read out. In it, Zuma stated that he hit a pool of water and lost control of his vehicle.

The State called its first witness, Mthobisi Percival Nxumalo, who has been an employee of the South African Weather Service since 2012, when he started as an intern. 

Nxumalo could however not shed light on the rainfall conditions at the time of the accident, despite lengthy explanations as to how rainfall is measured. 

The State's second witness, Jacques Cronjé, the dealer principal at Porsche in Johannesburg, testified at length on the specifications and safety features of the Porsche model Zuma was driving at the time of the accident. 

He told the court that Zuma's company Mabengela Investments had purchased the Porsche 911 Turbo that was involved in the accident in 2007.

The last service the car underwent before the crash was on November 26, 2013, for overheating. The service before that was on September 27, 2013, to replace brake pads. 

Felt out of control

Cronjé recalled how he had once experienced "aquaplaning" while driving a similar model Porsche at around 70-90km/h. He told the court that he felt he wasn't in control of the car at that time. 

Zuma's defence rests heavily on the fact that he lost control of his Porsche when he hit a puddle on the road during heavy rains and aquaplaned, smashing into the minibus taxi. 

Hellens put it to Cronjé that the new Porsche model would be issued with additional technology that would prevent it from aquaplaning, as this has been a problem experienced with that particular model. He then read from an article in Autonews, published in January, stating that Porsche would be implementing a so-called wet mode to prevent aquaplaning.

"A combination of the vehicle's light weight and wide tyres means it aquaplanes much easier than a heavier SUV with narrower wheels. The best solution is to simply reduce speed and switch to the slow lane, but Porsche 911 drivers are not accustomed to this and believe control systems like ESP would help stabilise the vehicle.

"But these were not designed for such a task and could do relatively little to prevent this," according to the article by Ulrich Morbitzer, head of sports car chassis development at Porsche.

Cronjé acknowledged that such a feature would not be developed if it wasn't deemed necessary. 

Zuma may not have been able to prevent accident - taxi driver

The State's third witness, Vusi Dlamini, testified in isiZulu that he was the driver of the taxi that Zuma crashed into. 

Dlamini drives the route between Fourways and Johannesburg regularly. 

Dlamini testified that it was raining, but not in such a way that in impaired his vision. Baba asked Dlamini about road conditions, particularly about the amount of water on the road.

Dlamini told the court his taxi was hit on the right side, after which it spun out of control and was brought to a halt by a barrier. 

He said the damage to his taxi was mostly on the right-hand side where Zuma's Porsche had collided with it. 

Hellens explained to Dlamini that the damage to Zuma's Porsche had also been on the side, and put it to Dlamini that it was plausible that Zuma's car had in fact been out of control when it collided with his taxi. 

Just before the court adjourned for lunch, Dlamini agreed with the defence that Zuma may not have been able to prevent the accident. 

The trial continues with the testimony of Matron Mdakane, 73, who was in the taxi that collided with Zuma's Porsche.

Read more on:    duduzane ­zuma
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