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KZN to cough up for taxi crash

2012-12-06 08:43

SBU NDEBELE: His farm's approach road was tarred with provincial funds - but there was no money to fix potholes.

 
DURBAN - KwaZulu-Natal's premier and transport minister have been ordered to compensate a passenger injured eight years ago when a taxi overturned because of a pothole.

Judge Jan Combrink said in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Wednesday that the pothole was about nine metres long, 2.5 metres wide and as much as 25cm deep. It stretched across the travelling surface and drivers had to cross into the approaching lane to avoid it.

MONEY SPENT ON MEC

The roads department claimed there was insufficient money to repair the hold - yet then MEC Sbu Ndebele had R700 000 "nor formally funded" spent from provincial funds to tar 200m of gravel road outside his farm.

The amount in damages to be paid to Hluphile Zuma, of Tugela Ferry, has not yet been decided.

The crash happened in December 2004 on the Greytown-Dundee tarred road. Taxi driver Jabu Langa testified that he used the road several times a day and knew the pothole well. To avoid it, he would cross into the oncoming lane but on that day a bakkie rounded the bend "very fast" and this prompted him to turn left - and into the hole.

The taxi overturned, injuring Zuma and 12 other passengers.

A witness from Zimane Construction, contracted to repair that section of road, claimed the pothole was repaired in December 2004 but the repair was washed away. Combrink rejected this evidence, saying it was full of contradictions and inaccuracies.

A roads department official told the court that the funds made available to the department had to be spread to various projects and admitted that there was not enough money.

MONEY SPENT ON MEC

The judge said "the cat got among the pigeons" when court officials inspected a section of tarred road past the gate of then KZN MEC Sbu Ndebele. It was a minor gravel road and the resurfaced section served only two farms, one of which belonged to Ndebele.

Combrink said that upgrade cost more than R700 000 in the 2004/2005 financial year and that the funds were "not formally funded".

"[The roads department official] was constrained to admit it was not a formally funded project," the judge said. "It follows that those funds were probably obtained from funds allocated to another project.

During the same year R218 000 was spent by the department on gifts and donations."

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