Transnet pledges R500 000 for train crash victims

Friday, July 20, 2012

Transnet freight rail general manager Nozipho Mndawe announced the pledge in front of more than 2 000 mourners who attended the memorial service held in honour of the victims in Tonga near Komatipoort on Thursday.

"As we have set up an independent board of enquiry that will hit the ground as from next Monday, we have pledged R500 000 that is going to assist the injured and the next of kin of those who died in the accident," said Mndawe.

The event, which was attended by some MECs from the Mpumalanga provincial government, Transnet officials, Road Accident Fund officials and Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Bulelani Magwanishe, was marked with tears from mourners who could not contain their pain.

South African Civics Organisation (Sanco) President Ruth Bhengu told the mourners that trucks were meant to carry goods, not people.

Congress of South African Trade Unions provincial chairman Solwako Mahlangu said the contract that was signed between the truck owner and the farm owner must also be investigated.

"The investigation has to find out how and where this contract was signed. If fraudulent elements are found, those involved must be arrested," said Mahlangu.

Mpumalanga Community Safety, Security and Liaison MEC Vusi Shongwe promised that the police would leave no stone unturned in their investigations.

"For now we have arrested the truck driver and he has been denied bail. Investigations are in progress, including Transnet's board of enquiry, which involves some members from my department," said Shongwe.

He said one body had not yet been identified.

"On Saturday we are going to bury 24 of the people who died while we wait for the family of the remaining victim to come forward. The victim has no identity book and we have not met his relatives," he said.

Meanwhile, the truck driver, George Mandlazi, 32, was denied bail when he appeared in the Barberton Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.

He was driving the truck when it collided with a coal train between Hectorspruit and Malalane last Friday morning. He was initially charged with culpable homicide, and then murder, but the charges were reduced to culpable homicide during his first court appearance on Monday.

On Tuesday, the charges were again changed to murder.

The mass funeral service of the deceased will be held at 9am on Saturday at KaMhlushwa stadium.