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Pongola truck driver who murdered 20 people gets 20 years

The Pongola truck driver who was convicted of murdering 20 people, mostly children, was on Thursday sentenced to 20 years direct imprisonment.

The KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) High Court sitting in Pongola sentenced Sibusiso Siyaya (30) on 20 counts of murder, as well as reckless and negligent driving and failure to perform duties of a driver after an accident.

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Driving into oncoming traffic

Siyaya was employed as a heavy motor vehicle driver for a company which transported coal from Mpumalanga to the Richards Bay coal terminal in KZN for export.

In the course of his employment, he travelled the route between the mines in Mpumalanga and KZN, using the N2 via the Itshelejuba Pass in Pongola.

On 16 September 2022, he collected a load of coal in Mpumalanga and made his way towards the coal terminal in Richards Bay.

“En route, Siyaya drove recklessly and often overtook several vehicles over the double barrier centre median and onto the oncoming lane, causing oncoming vehicles to take evasive action to avoid a collision with his vehicle,” said National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson-Kara.

“Whilst driving on the on-coming lane, Siyaya collided with a motor vehicle carrying 20 passengers. The occupants of the motor vehicle were aged between 5 and 28 years old and were predominantly schoolchildren on their way to school.”

The head-on collision killed all the occupants of the motor vehicle. Siyaya fled the scene after the collision and was arrested a day later.

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In the state’s case, Advocate Krishen Shah led the evidence of 12 witnesses, relying on the testimonies of three expert witnesses, as well as onboard CCTV video clips and GPS evidence, encompassing both technical and mechanical evidence.

Shah also submitted victim impact statements compiled by the family members of the deceased and facilitated by Court Preparation Officer Thandeka Nadi Mofokeng.

Pongola truck crash: Mother lost all her children

“All the family members mentioned that their lives have been devastatingly affected following the incident,” Ramkisson-Kara added.

“One woman mentioned that all her children were on board the motor vehicle on the day of the accident, and she has thus lost all her children.

“Another woman mentioned that she lost three of her children who were travelling to school on the day of the accident. The family members spoke of unresolved pain and deep emotional scars.”

Since the court found that the murder counts occurred in one single act, Siyaya was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for the murders (all taken as one for the purpose of sentencing), three years imprisonment for reckless and negligent driving, and six years imprisonment for failure to perform the duties of a driver after an accident.

The court ordered that the sentences for reckless and negligent driving and failure to perform the duties of a driver run concurrently, resulting in the effective sentence of 20 years imprisonment. His driver’s licence was also cancelled.

“The NPA welcomes the outcome of this precedent-setting case. We commend the stellar efforts of the prosecution and other stakeholders.”

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