The gloves have come off in the Field’s Hill tragedy, with truck owner Gregory Govender accusing his driver Sanele May of having deceived him by providing fraudulent documents when he applied for his job.
Govender was due to appear at a press conference yesterday but instead issued a statement through his spokesperson Lisa Sukdev.
May has been charged with 22 counts of murder after his 18-wheeler truck ploughed into four minibus taxis and a car on September 5.
Another victim, Nhlanhla Khumalo, died at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli hospital on Friday. She was the 23rd person to die from the accident.
In his statement, Govender said his company had established that May’s SA traffic register certificate was fraudulent and that the number of the certificate belongs to another Swazi asylum seeker.
The statement said that May’s public driving permit (PDP) was also fraudulent.
“I feel betrayed and taken advantage of. I would have never entrusted my vehicle or people’s lives to Sanele if I had any knowledge of his inexperience and lack of legitimate qualifications,” he added.
May’s lawyer Theasen Pillay withdrew from the case yesterday, and was replaced by Professor Mdletshe. Pillay was appointed by May’s employers, Sagekal Logistics.
The case was postponed to October 8.
Mdletshe told the Pinetown Magistrates’ Court that new evidence had been given to the prosecution and it had been agreed that the case would need to be postponed while this evidence was investigated by police.
It was not revealed in court what this information was and the matter was postponed for a formal bail application.
Mdletshe, speaking after the matter was heard, said the allegation that his client had obtained a job using fraudulent documents was news to him.
Mdletshe said he was approached by May’s family to represent the 23-year-old truck driver.
Mdletshe told The Witness that May is still highly emotional and they are still trying to arrange proper counselling for him.
“He still cries a lot,” he said. “We’re trying our best to help him,” he added.
Mdletshe has become somewhat of a celebrity lawyer after he helped free Sifiso Cedric Shezi (39), who spent 10 years behind bars at Westville Prison for a crime he did not commit.
Shezi was accused of raping his daughter Pinky, who is now 18 years old. His sentence was overturned based on the revelation that Pinky’s mother, who has since died, had coached her to falsely accuse him of rape.
Mdletshe said May’s family paid him, and various organisations were assisting with his legal fees.
Meanwhile, the Sanele May Support Group on Facebook, which has attracted more than 8 000 members so far, welcomed the news.
Fiona Barron wrote: “Nice to hear that 3 Lawyers arrived to represent him … It was not really a good idea that the lawyer his boss sent defend (sic) him”.
Ria Raw, another of May’s supporters, said: “The best news for the day!!!!!!!!”
Other supporters had been calling for a pro bono attorney to come to the driver’s aid.
Govender said he wanted to reassure the public that he was committed to doing whatever it takes to get to the truth.
He said May, an employee he had never met, used to visit his yard and was always making enquiries about a job.
“When he came to the yard he drove a truck and appeared to be working for another company,” the statement read.
On September 1, May again asked about the possibility of employment and was advised to return the following day. That is when May and six others were tested to fill four vacant posts. May was one of two candidates who passed the test and was given the job.
Govender said May produced a Code 14 driver’s licence issued in Swaziland in February last year, his passport, South African traffic register number certificate and his public driver’s permit from Swaziland.
May had told the company he was familiar with the route from Durban to Joburg.
Govender maintains that his truck was recently serviced. He said he does not know why May took the off-ramp on the M13 and he also accused May of giving inconsistent accounts of when the brakes allegedly failed.
The company has also employed top forensic collision reconstructionist Stan Bezuidenhout, who they say has technical forensic experience at more than 7 500 accident scenes both locally and abroad.
Bezuidenhout said his investigation is ongoing. He said they are looking at the mechanical condition of the vehicle.
“There are components in the vehicle and we have to determine how they were used,” he said, adding that if a truck is driven on a long hill and the driver relies on the brakes, without engaging a low gear, the brakes will be completely burned.
He said they are inspecting the gear box, the condition of the road and the “human element”. – Additional reporting by Sapa.
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