Labour department denies unroadworthy car allegations after well-known poet dies in horror crash

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Emergency personnel trying to remove Dyongman's body from the mangled work vehicle he was driving after a crash.
Emergency personnel trying to remove Dyongman's body from the mangled work vehicle he was driving after a crash.
PHOTO: Supplied
  • An official of the Eastern Cape's labour department claims the department's vehicles are "death traps".  
  • The official made these allegations at the funeral service of colleague Siphelo "Nqontsonqa" Dyongman, who died in a crash while driving a work vehicle.
  • The department has denied its cars are unroadworthy and claims the car handed to Dyongman was in perfect condition. 

The Eastern Cape Department of Employment and Labour has vehemently denied that it's putting staff in danger by making them drive unsafe, unroadworthy "death traps". 

The claim was made during the recent funeral service of well-known Eastern Cape poet and departmental employee, Siphelo "Nqontsonqa" Dyongman, who died tragically in a head-on collision last month. 

The 33-year-old father of a nine-year-old daughter was killed when the VW Polo he was driving slammed into a heavy-duty truck on the Kei Cuttings - a dangerous mountain pass with sharp curves on the N2, outside Butterworth.

READ | 3 killed after maize meal truck overturns in Eastern Cape

Dyongman was driving down the notorious steep cliff side of the pass, approaching the Great Kei River after a five-day training course in Mthatha, while heading home to Makhanda. 

Dyongman, a journalist, had been working as a clerk at the department’s Graaff Reinet office.

Paying tribute to Dyongman during the funeral service, his friend and colleague Lusiba Sobekwa told mourners who packed the BB Zondani community hall, that the bulk of the department's fleet was unroadworthy. 

An emotional Sobekwa said: 

I am sorry to my bosses, but I have to say this: Let Nqontsonqa's death be a final call for the department to address the issue of these unsafe cars. For years the department has been putting us in deathtrap cars.

"The department must investigate the safety of the car Nqontsonqa was driving," he said.

Sobekwa made the startling remarks in the presence of the department’s chief operations director, Nomfundo Douw-Jack.

Douw-Jack, who also spoke at the funeral, did not respond to the allegations at the service, but in response to questions from News24, said: "The official or friend was talking in his own capacity as a friend and according to his own judgement."

"He is not employed by the department as a fleet official nor works with administration of departmental fleet, as such he [does not have the] full details of the accident. He was not speaking on behalf of the department."

Siphelo Nqontsonqa Dyongman
Siphelo Nqontsonqa Dyongman.
Supplied Supplied

Douw-Jack added that "the car driven by the late Mr Dyongman was roadworthy".

She also dismissed Sobekwa’s claims that the bulk of the department's fleet was unroadworthy and unsafe. 

"Those are unfounded allegations as the department fleet officers ensure that vehicles are inspected for compliance before being handed over to officials. There is a sub unit in the department that deals with fleet management as their core function, including the checking of roadworthiness of vehicles," said Douw-Jack.

Transport and safety department spokesperson Makhaya Komisa said a case of culpable homicide had been opened at Kei Bridge SAPS for further investigation.

Nqotsonqa and Berita performing on stage
Nqotsonqa and Berita performing their 2013 song 'Umenziwa'.
Mourners pay tribute to Siphelo at funeral
Mourners pay tribute to Siphelo 'Nqontsonqa' Dyongman.

Komisa said there were two men in the articulated truck, while Dyongman was alone in a VW Polo vehicle. 

"[The] vehicles collided head-on and the driver of the Polo was declared dead at the scene of the accident by the emergency services while both occupants of the truck escaped unharmed. The circumstances surrounding the cause of [the] accident is still unknown at this stage."

Dyongman's sister, Agcobile Dyongman, said the family was shocked by Sobekwa's revelations at the funeral.

She said the family hoped it would answer many of their questions and called on the department to release a full report on the accident soon.

"We still have questions that hopefully will be answered sooner, so that we can move on. It won't bring him back, but we would love to know what actually happened. We will not be blaming anyone at the moment," Agcobile said.

Hombakazi Ndaza, Dyongman's partner and the mother of his daughter, told News24 she was crushed by his death.

"He was more than a lover. He was my friend whom I could rely on for all my problems. I have lost someone who could help me during times of need. The reality that my daughter Am-akuwe will grow up without a father is truly devastating."

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