Thursday, 23 February 2012

This accident was no accident

Humphrey Mmemezi
tl;dr: Mmemezi says his blue light accident was "just like any other". It wasn't: It was a blue light accident. How much more Pythonesque can you be, without actually being John Cleese?

Here is what Gauteng MEC for Housing Humphrey Mmemezi, told Beeld today about the accident caused by his official vehicle that left teenager Thomas Ferreira with brain damage:
"People should not be ridiculous and politicise this accident, just because a blue-light vehicle was involved. This was an accident just like any other." (reported by IOL, 23 February 2012)

That means:

1. If you politicise this accident, you are ridiculous.
You cannot argue there are political consequences to a serious accident caused by a politician in the course of breaking the law in order to go about his business. 
2. You would only want to politicise this accident because a blue light vehicle was involved.
Not because blue light vehicles, and the use thereof is already a political issue, nor because inside the blue light vehicle there was inconveniently one politician.
3. In any other accident where you knowingly break the law and ignore a red light the driver will not be arrested on the spot, but will be sent a polite notice to appear in court. You'll also be delighted to hear that in a period of at least four months, no formal charges will be laid.
We all know that having a blood alcohol level high enough to make a budgy slightly slur its speech is a far more serious crime than mere reckless and negligent driving and causing brain damage.
This was not, mr. MEC, an accident like any other. I have a sneaky suspicion you know that, since... you tell us so yourself: It involved a blue light vehicle. It involved someone knowingly doing something that could conceivably kill someone and would undoubtedly land any other, normal citizen in jail.

Furthermore, quoth The Witness, quoting a witness: "Eyewitness Lizanne van Wyk [said] that the BMW skipped a traffic light without sounding sirens or flashing blue lights."

So, while in fact involving a blue light vehicle, this accident does not, in fact, involve a blue light vehicle. It involved a speeding car skipping a red light and causing brain damage to a teenager. It is not even an ordinary blue light vehicle accident.

It is absurd and indefensible that some vehicles should be allowed to break rules that are supposed to be applicable to everyone, without distinction. Why are we even having this discussion? Let me quote that little known document, The Constitution, Section 9.1:
"Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law."
 I know, and I sincerely want to avoid allusions to pork, but really, Section 9 goes on about this quite explicitly: You, me and the guy driving the blue light vehicle... all equal.

In fact, the National Prosecuting Authority feel strongly about this too:
Two years ago the NPA issued a directive stating that where there is sufficient proof of extremely reckless driving and people are killed, prosecutors should charge drivers with murder and not culpable homicide or manslaughter. 
To that effect the Western Cape High Court found taxi driver Jacob Humphreys guilty of murdering ten children after his taxi collided with a train at the Buttskop level crossing, outside Cape Town.  
Sonwabo Geqe, a motorist fleeing from the police, was sentenced to eighteen years’ imprisonment for killing four pedestrians. 
Percyval Matji, the taxi driver who knocked sixteen-year-old Bernadine Kruger off her scooter and ran over her in 2009, was sentenced to twelve years in jail in Pretoria. 
Several cases where drivers have been charged with murder are pending: Musician Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye, former Bafana Bafana player Bryce Moon and Sibusiso Langa, who allegedly killed five runners in Midrand. 
Mthunzi Mhaga, a spokesperson for the NPA, said the new policy has caused a lot of confusion among members of the public, who consider car crashes to be accidents, in which the driver had no intention to kill. 
It is different from the crime of culpable homicide, which entails causing someone’s death negligently, or in other words, where a person foresaw someone might die and didn’t take the necessary precautions to prevent it. 
Jonathan Burchell, professor of criminal law at the University of Cape Town, said this was when a person “foresaw the possibility that death might come about and nevertheless took a conscious risk which caused death”. 
This would include a driver who foresees the possibility that their reckless driving might very well kill someone, but decides to carry on driving anyway.

The above from an article called "Reckless driving just like murder" by Charl Du Plessis, City Press, 18 December 2011.

I'm not terribly prescient. Sometimes dawn takes me by surprise. But I can pretty much tell that when I skip a red light in traffic, I foresee the "possibility that death might come about".

And I can foresee that as long as there are blue light vehicles who think they can skip red lights, or break any other rule, more "death might come about".

This issue is deeply political. The Constitution says so.

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