Sibusiso Siyaya, a 28-year-old truck driver, appeared in the Pongola Magistrate’s Court on Monday in connection with the accident that claimed 21 lives, mainly children, on Friday last week.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority, Siyaya has since been charged with culpable homicide.
The truck collided with a bakkie ferrying school learners. Nineteen children and two adults were killed. According to reports, the two adults who lost their lives include the driver of the bakkie and an assistant teacher.
Siyaya handed himself over to the police on Saturday.
This comes after the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Sipho Hlomuka, called on community members to assist the police in apprehending him after he fled the gruesome scene.
“His arrest is important in assisting the families to deal with the devastation of losing their relatives. We commend the police who have had to activate all systems to make sure that the driver is pressured to surrender himself,” said Hlomuka over the weekend.
The NPA said Siyaya now faces 21 counts of culpable homicide.
The matter was remanded to 26 September 2022 for a bail application.
As part of interventions, the KwaZulu-Natal government said it was sending a high-level delegation, led by acting Premier Nomagugu Simelane, to meet the bereaved families.
The team will also include Hlomuka; Acting MEC for Education, Bongi Sithole-Moloi and the MEC for Social Development, Nonhlanhla Khoza.
“They will be joined by senior managers of government entities, which will lead efforts to assist the affected families,” the provincial government said.
The government delegation will also attend court proceedings in the Pongola Magistrates’ Court, where the truck driver will be appearing after he handed himself over to the police.
“The Acting Premier, together with the MECs, will also visit the four affected schools in the area, as part of assisting the learners, teachers and school governing body members, who are still experiencing shock and trauma.
“Upon arrival, they will be briefed by the enforcement agencies on the investigation, visit schools and engage with affected families,” the provincial government said.
Commenting on the visit, Simelane said it is the nature of a caring government to be with the people during difficulties.
“As part of the interventions, we are bringing with us all government agencies to assist with the forensic investigation and to assist with social relief. The Department of Social Development, working with the Department of Education, will also attend to social services to assist learners and teachers in the affected schools.
“We will also engage the community of Pongola to find long-lasting solutions to end such tragic incidents,” said Simelane.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has also offered his condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in this incident. He wished survivors a speedy and full recovery.
The President said: “This is yet another sad moment for our country, following the substantial loss of young lives in an Eastern Cape tavern recently.
“We cannot afford to lose such precious lives under any conditions. I hope the investigation into the Pongola incident will shed light on the cause of this tragedy and help us take better care of our children in the future.”