People and companies that use trucks for businesses have to employ licensed drivers and ensure their vehicles were always roadworthy, Deputy Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chukunga said on Friday.
“If you know how to drive but do not have a valid driver’s licence, you don’t have to drive,” Chikunga said speaking during the memorial service in Machadodorp, Mpumalanga, for 18 people who died in an accident involving two minibus taxis and a truck earlier this week.
The accident happened between Machadodorp and Badplaas on Tuesday. The accident occurred on R541 road and left 17 other people injured.
Chukunga condemned buying driver’s licences from examiners.
“We will wait for the investigation into the accident to be concluded, but the little information we have is that the [two] taxis did nothing wrong. But if we can say trucks must stop operating, the economy will also stop in South Africa. If you give your child R3500 to buy a driver’s licence, you must know that you are buying him a death certificate. As the African National Congress government, we also feel the pain caused by the loss of these lives.”
The memorial service was held inside a marquee erected at a local stadium. The two minibus taxis were transporting mineworkers, who worked Franki Afrika, to their work place
Chikunga urged drivers in general to be patient with each other on the roads and she called on people to adhere to safety measures when travelling.
The memorial service was characterised by a sorrow and grief as many people often wiped tears, and many women and girls started crying out in loud voices when Chikunga read out the names of all the people who died.
One woman, believed to be in her 50s, was loaded into an ambulance and driven out of the premises after she collapsed. Several other grief-stricken women were led out of the marquee by their family members and paramedics during the service.
Chikunga gave the deceased people’s family members a candle and a blanket during the proceedings, and the candles were lit for a few moments to represent the lives of those who died.
Speaking at the same gathering, Franki Afrika representative Mike Taitz said his company was saddened by the death of the 18 people.
“Today is the day of deep sadness and pain for all of us,” said Taitz.
“Our people all over the world have sent messages of support. May God comfort, strengthen and give you peace.”
Other people who attended the service included Mpumalanga Community Safety MEC Pat Ngomane and Nkangala District Municipality mayor Linah Malatjie.
Six of the deceased will be buried in a mass funeral in Machadodorp on Saturday.