“I’m not guilty” – N12 crash truck driver

NOTE: This article first appeared on The Citizen website on October 22, 2014.

Truck driver Isaac Maruding attempts to cover his head during a court adjournment of his bail application at the Palm Ridge Magistrate's court, 22 October 2014. Maruding is appearing on charges of culpable homicide. Picture: Refilwe Modise
Truck driver Isaac Maruding attempts to cover his head during a court adjournment of his bail application at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s court, 22 October 2014. Maruding is appearing on charges of culpable homicide. Picture: Refilwe Modise

The driver behind the wheel of the truck which caused last week’s horror accident on the N12 highway is planning to plead not guilty.

Appearing for the second time at the Palm Ridge Magistrates Court on Wednesday, Isaac Wade Maruding said in an affidavit that he was not responsible for the crash.

Maruding, driving a truck owned by Benusi Cargo Carriers, plowed through numerous vehicles on the highway when the truck’s brakes allegedly failed on October 14.

The accident left four people dead, seven critically injured and 19 with minor injuries.

In the same affidavit, Maruding apologised to those injured and their families.

Mokhele Salemane, Maruding’s new legal representative, proposed his client br granted R5 000 bail on the grounds that by being detained he was losing income and could not support his family of three – two children and his wife.

It was revealed to the court today that along with Maruding’s previous convictions for culpable homicide and reckless and negligent driving, he had another culpable homicide charge on his record.

Phokungwane said Maruding was aquitted of culpable homicide in 1996. He was a taxi driver at the time.


N12 crash driver a flight risk

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State witness and investigating officer Joas Pheagne Phokungwane said investigations were underway on the vehicle and would be concluded next week.

Phokungwane and state prosecutor John Ntuli said releasing Maruding on bail would “endanger the public at large”.

Ntuli used this as another reason for Maruding not to get bail.

Magistrate Samuel Hlubi postponed his judgment to October 27.

“No bail is set at this stage and the accused will remain in custody,” he said.The truck was impounded by police.

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Soshanguve told to ‘speak out’ on child killer

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on October 18, 2014.

Nine year old, Veronicah Mofokeng was laid to rest today after disappearing from her father’s Soshanguve home last month. Her body was found dumped at a construction site, mere metres away from her home.

Her aunt, Jenah Lebogo said Veronicah said: “she disappeared on September 6… Her body was found on September 15″.

Lebogo explained that Veronicah’s face was burnt, making it difficult to identify her body. Buried at the site, were her clothes and used condoms.

The family only received DNA confirmation that the body was in fact Veronica’s, this week, nearly a month after the little body was found. Her killer and rapist is still at large.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa attended the funeral in Soshanguve, Tshwane today.

Mourners with images of murdered Veronicah Mofokeng on their t-shirts stand in front of her coffin during funeral proceedings in Soshunguve, 18 October 2014. Picture: Refilwe Modise
Mourners with images of murdered Veronicah Mofokeng on their t-shirts stand in front of her coffin during funeral proceedings in Soshunguve, 18 October 2014. Picture: Refilwe Modise

“The way she died broke my heart,” he said, adding that Veronicah’s killer had violated her rights as a child. He called on the community to help police find the killer and that they should “speak out”.

Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi was also in attendance. He said in the past 150 days that he has been in office, he has attended six funerals of children in the province. “This is a difficult and painful exercise,” he lamented.

Inconsolable teachers and learners from Nchuncheko Primary School were in attendance at the funeral service.

In recent months a number of child killings have taken place in Gauteng:

– Taegrin Morris (4) – Taegrin died after being dragged for several kilometers during the  hijacking of his mother’s car in Reiger Park. His killers are still at large.

– Curburne van Wyk  (3) – Curbune’s little body was found burnt and dumped in a mine dump in Reiger Park. He was reported missing a week prior. A man, Katlego Phoku, has been arrested.

– Luke Tibbetts (3) – Luke was shot in the back by a stray bullet. He was sitting on his mother’s lap. The bullet was supposedly meant for his uncle who was also in the car. Luke was in ICU on life support machines for a week. Two men Lindray Khakhu and Keenan Mokwena were arrested.

 

N12 Crash: Defence lawyers drop truck driver

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on October 16, 2014. 

The driver of the truck that ploughed into close to 50 cars on the N12 on the East Rand on Tuesday, was left in the lurch by his legal representatives at Palm Ridge Magistrates’ Court on Thursday afternoon.

N12 crash truck driver Isaac Maruding in the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court. Pic: Tracy Lee Stark.
N12 crash truck driver Isaac Maruding in the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court. Pic: Tracy Lee Stark.

Truck driver Isaac Maruding had his first appearance in court on Thursday. State attorney, John Ntuli applied for a postponement of the case to investigate further.

Maruding, facing four counts of culpable homicide and one count of reckless and negligent driving, covered his face throughout proceedings.  His representatives, advocate Gerhard Louw and Deon van Staden initially opposed the postponement, wanting to proceed with Maruding’s bail application.

When Magistrate Samuel Hlubi denied the defences application,  Louw asked to be withdrawn as his client’s representative. “We don’t have instruction to proceed with this case beyond today,” Louw said.

Maruding has a previous conviction for both culpable homicide and reckless and negligent driving, and served time in prison for both, the court heard.

The state asked for more time to properly compile information on those who died in the crash, Ntuli saying “additional charges” may be added in future.

Hlubi postponed the matter until October 22, to give both the state and Maruding the time they need.

Maruding now has to find alternative legal representation after the company appointed lawyers dumped him on Thursday.

Generations CCMA appeal falls flat

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on October 14, 2014.

The 16 Generations actors who have now been without work for two months, took their matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) today.

FILE PICTURE: Fired Generations actors Zolisa Xaluva, Menzi Ngubane and Mandla Gaduka look on during a press briefing at Cosatu House in Braamfontein, 15 September 2014. Picture: Refilwe Modise
FILE PICTURE: Fired Generations actors Zolisa Xaluva, Menzi Ngubane and Mandla Gaduka look on during a press briefing at Cosatu House in Braamfontein, 15 September 2014. Picture: Refilwe Modise

They sought recourse from their employers, the SABC and MMSV Productions, for their collective dismissal. The 16 took the matter to the CCMA as the Generations Actors Guild (GAG) after prior efforts to negotiate with their employers failed.

This pattern of refusal continued today as the SABC and MMSV Productions refused to settle the matter. In a statement GAG said: “The matter will continue on to arbitration. For the cast, there is a sense of relief that the process has begun.”

The actors’ legal advisor Bulelani Mzamo said it was important to remember that this process may be a long one. “There is a considerable amount of work that needs to go into demonstrating the basis of this claim to the CCMA – the CCMA, in turn, has its own process of how it responds to each claim, and their recommendation on the most suitable remedy to the dispute,” Mzamo said.

Why Generations actors were axed – Mfundi Vundla (audio)

In a joint statement the actors said: “From the outset, we acted within the definitions of the agreement and the law – despite a string of broken promises from our former employers. We look forward to putting our case before the CCMA and commencing on achieving a much-deserved legal remedy to our unilateral dismissal.”

Apart from the CCMA appeal, GAG now want to open a civil case against their employers “for a transparent calculation for the commercial exploitation fees owed to us for use of the episodes and our images”.

The soapie which is now off air, is being rewritten – presumably with a new cast – and will return to screens in December.

GALLERY: Actors who got axed from Generation

Motsoaledi: No SA ebola threat

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on October 9, 2014. 

Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi said he is tired of the unnecessary “media frenzy” around the possible outbreak of Ebola in the country.

Motsoaledi was speaking in Kempton Park, after a meeting with various stakeholders, who will be sending aid to West African countries affected by the deadly virus.

So far all 14 people who have been tested for the virus have been negative. “We were testing them to settle nerves,” said Motsoaledi. He added that too much panic was being created in the media every time someone with a fever or bleeding was admitted to hospital.

Professor Janusz Paweska, who has been part of a team deployed to assist medically in West Africa, explained why South Africa is not a high risk area at the moment.

“There is no habit of eating pets (birds, bats etc) in South Africa.”

He said the extreme hunger in some of the affected countries forced people to hunt bats and other wildlife just to survive.

“People are hungry out there”.

TB Joshua may face legal action

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on October 9, 2014. 

A man who lost his sister when a guest house of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria collapsed almost a month ago wants to take legal action against the church.

Mpho Molebatsi said this week his “anger was directed at TB Joshua and his church”, adding the incident had left far too many people traumatised not to take further action.

According to weekend reports, the evangelist pastor from Nigeria, TB Joshua, has sent teams to hand over gifts to the families of the 84 deceased South Africans.

The gifts included money, anointed water and maize meal.

TB Joshua. Picture: Supplied
TB Joshua. Picture: Supplied

But Molebatsi said he wanted nothing from the pastor.

“You can’t pay for a funeral with that. He can take the R5 000 and shove it,” he said.

Molebatsi’s sister, Hlubi, has not been returned to South Africa yet.

SLOW PROCESS

Government spokesperson Phumla Williams said earlier this week Nigerian authorities were in the process of conducting DNA analyses on the bodies of the 115 people killed in the building collapse.

The process of repatriating the bodies to South Africa had been slow, she said.

“The Nigerians said they will draw the DNA samples themselves and appoint a service provider to run the tests. Only then can we begin to compare results with our data.”

The service provider may be South African, but that remains unclear.

She said the Nigerian government had made it clear South Africa would not have access to the bodies.

“They insisted we aren’t going to touch those bodies … even though they don’t have the technology to do some of the testing,” Williams said.

GOVERNMENT’S PROMISE

The South African government has promised the bodies would be returned to the right families, but that might be difficult as it’s hard to get fingerprints from decomposing corpses.

Molebatsi said the time families had been given for repatriation was a week or two, and they “could only hope” this timeline was accurate.

Generations’ replacement Skeem Saam viewership skyrockets

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on October 7, 2014. 

A change in TV scheduling at SABC1 has seen Sepedi drama Skeem Saam more than double its viewership numbers overnight.

As the last episode of Generations aired last week, Skeem Saam was catapulted into prime time.

According to data from the SA Audience Research Foundation, a week prior to the drama moving from its 6.30pm time slot to 8pm, their viewership stood at 3.5 million per show on average.

On the night the soapie occupied the 8pm slot for the first time on October 1, viewership shot to 8 881 352.

By Friday last week, the third day in that slot, the number went down slightly to just over 7.6 million viewers.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told The Citizen: “Viewership doesn’t sell ads; the time slot a show is in does.”

This was his answer amid fears that replacing Generations would have a negative impact on the massive ad revenue the show has managed to pull over the past 20 years.

Meanwhile, shooting for the new-look Generations – which will be ready to air in December – will start on October 28.

A source involved with the revamped production said: “We are all back at work and busy putting the new show together.”

The striking 16 actors – all dismissed in August – are still going ahead with their legal action.

“We have referred the matter to the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) and it will be dealt with on October 14,” said Desmond Brown, their legal representative.

Commenting on reports of a separate claim by the actors for never being registered for Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits, Brown said: “The first issue we need to deal with is whether they were employees or independent contractors.”

He claimed the actors had not been registered for UIF, despite all South African employers being obliged to register their employees.

“When we contacted them on this issue they said the actors were not employees of the SABC or MMSV, which is why they weren’t registered for UIF,” Brown said.

Pastor’s supporter drinks petrol as part of “miracle” (video)

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on September 25, 2014.

Pretoria pastor Lesego Daniel has roped in a congregant to support claims that petrol can be turned into pineapple juice.

The believer has taken his faith to ‘another level’ by drinking petrol to “connect to God”.

In January this year, Pastor Lesego Daniel made members of his church eat grass for the same reason.

At the time he reportedly told his congregation that eating grass would rid them of their sins and heal them of any ailments they may have had.

In a video posted on YouTube, the Pretoria-based pastor’s congregant claims to turn petrol into pineapple juice.

This “miraculous” power is demonstrated in front of the congregation, with one of the church members pouring petrol into a basin and igniting it to prove that it’s flammable.

Beforehand, Daniel tasted the liquid in front of the crowd.

READ MORE: The dangers of drinking petrol

What is apparently the same fluid is then drunk in front of the congregation, with spectators shouting “hallelujah”.

After drinking the “petrol turned pineapple juice”, the man coughs before saying: “It has lot of fumes but I don’t have any side effects”.

Daniel works from Robboni Centre Ministries in Ga-Rankuwa.

Generations off air from October 1

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on September 20, 2014. 

The contingency plan the SABC had in place to deal with the lack of new Generations episodes will come into full effect on October 1 – when the show is pulled off the air.

Kaizer Kganyago, SABC spokesperson, confirmed last night the show would no longer be on air as of next month.

The cast of Generations. Image courtesy of Facebook.com/GenerationsTVShow
The cast of Generations. Image courtesy of Facebook.com/GenerationsTVShow

“There are no new episodes … Generations will be off air until December,” he revealed.

Filming of the popular soap stopped on August 11 when 16 principal actors started withholding their services. The 16 demanded higher salaries and a cut of R500 million in royalties.

Kganyago said SABC1 would juggle their scheduling to move SePedi drama Skeem Saam from its 6.30pm timeslot to the coveted 8pm slotGenerations used to occupy.

Earlier this week, Generations producer and creator Mfundi Vundla said he was rewriting the entire show, presumably without the 16 actors, who were axed after being given an ultimatum to return to work or be fired a week after their strike action started.

The actors seem oblivious to the changes being made. The Generations Actors Guild announced yesterday they would be taking their matter to the CCMA.

Generations fight has producer in a lather

NOTE: This article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on September 18, 2014. 

The creator and producer of hit soap Generations, Mfundi Vundla, is standing his ground and is rewriting the entire show after he fired 16 principal actors who were on strike.

Following their dismissals by Vundla’s company, MMSV Productions, almost a month ago, he reportedly left the country to rethink the direction of the show now that his entire cast was gone.

Earlier, he said he took the strike very personally and felt “betrayed” by their accusations of exploitation.

FILE PICTURE: Generations executive producer Mfundi Vundla addresses the media at the SABC offices in Auckland Park, 22 August 2014, following the termination of services of 16 actors from the popular soapie. Picture: Refilwe Modise
FILE PICTURE: Generations executive producer Mfundi Vundla addresses the media at the SABC offices in Auckland Park, 22 August 2014, following the termination of services of 16 actors from the popular soapie. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Yesterday, when The Citizen contacted Vundla, who is back in the country, he said he was in a brainstorming session.

“I am busy rewriting the whole of Generations, I can’t talk to the media at the moment,” he said.

Viewers and fans of the soapie have been tuning in to watch prerecorded episodes for almost six weeks.

No filming has taken place since August 11, when the actors started “withholding their services” – meaning there may only be seven prerecorded episodes ready to air from today.

This is probably the reason Vundla is in a frenzied rush to pen the new direction of the show.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago could not confirm how many episodes were left, but said: “They haven’t been shooting, so at some point the episodes will be finished.”

He added that the SABC did have a backup plan for when that time came and this would be announced in due course.

In the event that the 16 actors were not reinstated, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) would march and picket in solidarity, the federation said. Patrick Craven, Cosatu national spokesperson, said they had requested a boycott of the show from Monday and would continue to put pressure on the SABC, producers, government and the public.

There has been no word on when auditions will be held to replace the fired actors or allocate new roles  for the “new” Generations. Cosatu general secretary

Zwelinzima Vavi threatened that any actors who auditioned would be publicly named and shamed.