Tearful final lap for tragic runners


AMAN charged with the murder of five joggers could be the first person in SA to be banned from driving while out on bail.

One of Sibusiso Langa's bail conditions, following his appearance in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Friday, was that he surrender his driver's licence.

Langa, 43, a mechanical engineer, faces five charges of murder, one of attempted murder and another of drunken driving after he allegedly lost control of his Mercedes-Benz ML500 last Saturday and ploughed into a group of joggers near the corner of Olifantsfontein and Lever roads in Midrand.

Moroese Mokoatsi, 34, Reneilwe Lesenyeho, 31, Given Mills, 30, Isaac Tlale, 37, and Nomvula Dumako, 35, were killed in the crash.

A sixth runner, Khanyiswa Stengile, the only survivor, was rushed to hospital where she underwent surgery.

Yesterday friends and relatives paid moving tributes to the victims at funeral services in four provinces.

A joint funeral service for Dumako and Mokoatsi, who were childhood friends, was held at the Anglican Church of Grace in Welkom, in the Free State, while Lesenyeho's service was held at the Hatfield Christian Church in Pretoria.

Services for Mills and Tlale were held in Thohoyandou, Limpopo, and North West respectively.

In a final goodbye to Dumako, her fiancé, Pretoria Magistrate's Court prosecutor Trott Mphahlele, promised to be a good father to their three-year-old son Siyabonga. Mphahele said he would miss her smile.

The coffins of the two women stood side by side as the church filled with mourners.

"I was robbed of the moment of walking down the aisle with you," he said. "As we lay you to rest, I am thankful for the time we spent together."

Mphahlele said he would always remember their last moments together. "I promise I will be a good father to Siya."

Mokoatsi's boyfriend, Sandile, read out a letter he wrote to her posthumously.

"I wish I could write in a long letter how much you mean to me. I love you and I always will," he said.

Family and friends struggled with their emotions as they spoke of the two women and their sheer determination and courage.

Keke Nchoba, who went to Lephola Senior High School in Welkom with the two women, said they lived life to the fullest. ''They were balanced, academically and socially. They were very close,'' he said.

Both women studied computer systems at Vaal University of Technology in Vanderbijlpark. Mokoatsi was working for Absa when she was killed.

Scores of mourners seeking to pay their last respects attended the service for Lesenyeho, demonstrating how many lives she had touched.

There was a special moment when her youngest sister, Nkotseng Lesenyeho, called her "a dynamic hero". "She has left a legacy," her sister said.

Lesenyeho started work as a project manager for a company in Midrand where she was promoted twice.

Among those who paid tribute to her was her high school friend, Jenny Karlsen, who flew from New York for the funeral.

Karlsen met Lesenyeho at the United World College in Norway where she finished high school. The two were roommates at the boarding school.

Karlsen described Lesenyeho as "unique" and "brilliant".

As her coffin - decked with several bouquets of flowers - was lowered into the ground at the nearby cemetery, her friends were overcome with grief.

Langa, meanwhile, broke down and cried in the holding cells when speaking to friends about the accident.

In court Langa, a mechanical engineer originally from Pietermaritzburg, wore a pinstripe suit and tie. He was released on R80000 bail and must appear in court again on November 25.

As part of his bail conditions, Langa, who also holds US citizenship, had to surrender both his passports.

Magistrate Maryke de la Rey warned him not to leave Gauteng without permission from the investigating officer.

Senior public prosecutor Kas Sami-Kistnan said despite the seriousness of the offence, the state did not oppose bail because Langa did not have previous convictions or outstanding warrants. He has a house in California where his wife and children live.