Field’s Hill Tragedy – Has justice been served?

This was a gruesome accident which instantly claimed the lives of twenty-two innocent people whilst two others succumbed to their severe injuries in hospital. Wrong place at the wrong time? I don’t think so.

Let’s have a little bit of a back story shall we?

On 5 September 2013, an illegal immigrant, Sanele May, who was hired as a truck driver by the owner, Gregory Govender, of a local transporting company, Sagekal Logistics,  and on one fateful night, he skipped a red robot which unfortunately claimed the lives of twenty-two civilians.

So what has happened from the time the incident occurred up until today and what made me choose this particular topic as a first post?

It all started at 4 pm. I was in my car, taking my younger brother to tuitions when the 4 pm East Coast Radio (ECR) Newswatch news bulletin blares through my speakers. Can you guess what their top story was?

Truck owner in Field’s Hill tragedy pleads guilty to four charges

Some might say, “Well, at least justice has been served”, but before we all breathe a sigh of relief, let’s look at what really transpired in the courtroom.

  1. In regards to counts one and two, he either pays a fine of R 10 000.00 or faces a 12 month imprisonment sentence.
  2. In regards to count three, he again pays a fine of R 10 000.00 or faces a 12 month imprisonment sentence.
  3. In regards to count 4, he pays a fine of R 5000.00 or faces a 6 month imprisonment sentence.

Please, kindly note, count four happens to be a charge of contravention of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002, by having employed the truck driver, Sanele May, who was illegally in the our country.

Whilst he may have pleaded guilty, there were a lot of things Gregory Govender could have done to prevent the accident, such as making sure his vehicles, which travel treacherous roads on a regular basis, were actually road-worthy and whether or not the driver had a valid driver’s license.

What happened to our dear Sanele May, the man behind the wheel?

Well to start of with, he was arrested and then the matter went to trial and he was convicted and sentenced too, but was his sentence a bit too lenient in light of the fatality that has been suffered by those innocent victims and their respective families?

Mr Sanele May, in 2014, he pleaded guilty to 31 charges which included, but are not limited to:

  • 24 counts of culpable homicide;
  • Two charges of possession of a fraudulent driver’s licence; and
  • Failure to adhere to a road traffic sign.

He was sentenced to a mere eight years and 10 months in jail.

As a law student, I have the hope in my heart that one day such tragic incidents don’t get off so easily.

That accident took away 24 innocent lives. It robbed families of a mother, a father, a brother, a sister. It snatched the lives of breadwinners, of wives and husbands, of best friends and children.

How was this incident so lightly treated?

Is R 25 000.00 the price of twenty-four lives?

Is that worth all the pain and suffering the lost ones’ loved ones went through, and still go through?

Yes, a certain amount of justice has been served, but in my honest opinion, a lot more could have been done.

Watch the carnage that unfolded on that fateful night. Below are the youtube links. Please note, it is not suitable for sensitive viewers.

Field’s Hill Tragedy

Field’s Hill Tragedy – A View From A Lucky Man

If you would like to know more about this and follow up on this story, ECR’s website is absolutely brilliant and it also contains an audio link which allows you to hear the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) explain the guilty plea as well as the charges Gregory Govender faces.

NPA explains ruling

Thank you.

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