A witness in the ongoing Matsha tragedy trial has told the court that the truck driver was irresponsible by driving an overloaded truck with a faulty tyre.
In his testimony, the 26-year-old eye witness, Bakang Motsumi, told Molepolole Magistrate Rosemary Khuto that he believed the driver, Dogi Thoomadi, could have checked the load of the truck before he proceeded with the trip.
When questioned by defence attorney, Temperance Ketshabile, why he was so interested in the state of the truck, Motsumi boldly explained that there were so many issues.
“People’s health comes first. Some students were sitting on their bags and others on rails, the truck was overloaded. Why did the truck driver fail to realise it was overloaded? asked Motsumi in his response.
Motsumi had earlier stated that some students, Fregi Gasemodimo and Mompoloki Gasemodimo decided to remain after realising that the truck was overloaded.
“Some students even tried to stop the truck and I went to the headmaster Mr Phori to ask if the truck would proceed overloaded as it was. He did not say anything and he never bothered to take action,” said Motsumi.
The truck was said to have parked near the headmaster’s office which is also nearer to the deputy’s office but none of them checked how the truck was loading.
Another former student, Oikanyeng Rafatshe (23) of Maboane village revealed that after they dropped off other students at Tshwaane, some students requested Thoomadi to increase the speed and he told them that it was impossible as one of the tyres had overheated.
Rafatshe said he later realised that the speed had increased and while they were about to approach Dutlwe, one of the tyres burst.
However, attorney Ketshabile objected to Rafatshe’s insinuation that Thoomadi increased the speed because the tyre had overheated; but rather because of the hot weather.
Tebogo Ntheetsang, 44, the caregiver of underprivileged children and households at Letlhakeng Sub District Council, who had assigned Thoomadi, clarified that though she did not give him instructions and the number of students to collect, she knew the Guidance & Counselling teacher, one Mr Otlaadisang would be responsible for the loading of the truck.
“When I phoned Otlaadisang he told me that there were many students, including those who were not supposed to be using the truck. I then advised him to refer to a list of those that were to be transported,” explained Ntheetsang.
“Procedurally I was the one who was supposed to be loading the truck, but since I was alone, I had to be in the office coordinating to make sure that all the students had transport including those in Good-Hope.”
However, Ntheetsang said she did not know the number of students to be transported and the size of the truck to be used.
When asked by the prosecutor, Farayi Mahwite of Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) if there had never been any request to release two trucks, Ntheetsang confirmed that there was such request as they usually send two trucks for both Form 4s and Form 5s.
“I discussed the issue with my supervisor Ms Matebele and we concluded that only one truck should be used as it was to collect the Form 5s only,” she said.
52-year-old Casino Batlhophi, a driver at Kweneng District Council had, in an earlier testimony, revealed to the court that they used to transport students in two or three trucks.
He said he had proposed that two of them, him and Thoomadi be assigned with two trucks so he could transport students’ luggage while Thoomadi transported the students and Ntheetsang told them that only one truck should be used.
“If I was the one to transport the children I would carry only 42 of them including their luggage,” Batlhophi said and added “if there were more than 100 students they were too many as the truck carries only a maximum of 7 tonne load.”
According to the summary of the case, the truck was overloaded with126 passengers with their luggage each, instead of the carrying capacity of 56 passengers.
Particulars of offence are that on November 13th, 2015 at Dutlwe along Morwamosu- Letlhakeng road in Kweneng District the accused recklessly drove a Hino truck registered B577 AOI and thereby causing the deaths of Olebogeng Ngakaagae, Joyce Tsogwane, Sekhuto Mmualebe, Olebile Mosielele,Irene Molebeledi, Barati Phetolo, Neo Kealotswe, Lydia Gakelebone and Oreeditse Kebopelwang.
Six witnesses have since testified in the case and the state is expected to call 11 more while the defence will call only three.