WATCH | Duduzane Zuma trial: State drops one culpable homicide charge

26 March 2019 - 09:42 By Nico Gous
Duduzane Zuma at his appearance at the Randburg magistrate's court on July 12 2018.
Duduzane Zuma at his appearance at the Randburg magistrate's court on July 12 2018.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Former president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane is in the dock on Tuesday in his culpable homicide trial relating to the 2014 death of Phumzile Dube, 30, when his Porsche collided with a minibus taxi.

He heard on Tuesday that he will not have to answer for the death of Jeanette Mashaba, who died in hospital a few weeks after the crash on the M1 South highway near the Grayston Drive offramp.

The Randburg court heard that the state had consulted with a pathologist and Mashaba’s death was ruled a result of natural causes.

State prosecutor Yusuf Baba told the court that Mashaba suffered from a pre-existing condition, which the state was unaware of earlier, that led to her death. The condition was not linked to the car crash.

Zuma has pleaded not guilty.

He said in a statement read out by his legal representative, Mike Hellens, that he was driving on the M1 South around 10pm. He said it was raining and he lost control after driving through a pool of water.

update 10:06am startsThe first state witness was South African Weather Service (SAWS) climatologist Mtombisi Nxumalo.

He testified that there was no recorded rainfall on the day of the accident between 3am and 7pm but said it was difficult to distinguish between recorded rainfall and rainfall away from a weather station.

The second state witness was Jacques Cronjé, who works for Porsche in Johannesburg. He testified that Zuma bought the Porsche 911 Turbo sedan involved in the accident in 2007.

The last service the car underwent before the crash was on November 26 2013 for overheating problems. The service before that was on September 27 2013.

Cronjé's testimony is continuing.update 10:06am ends

update 12h12

The brakes were part of the September service.

Cronjé told the court about his own experience of driving a rear-wheel drive Porsche 911 straight through a puddle of water at about 70-80km/h. He could not remember if the car's traction control came on, but the car did not spin. But he said that it felt there was a "complete lack of control".

After a short adjournment, Hellens asked Cronjé for more details. Cronjé said it happened while he was driving at night and he only saw the water after he struck it.

Hellens then read out an article in Autonews published in January this year about Porsche introducing a 'wet mode' to help prevent aquaplaning. "A Engineers in the past had put the greatest emphasis on improving handling on dry surfaces, not on wet ones. Yet, a combination of the vehicle's light weight and wide tyres means it aquaplanes much easier than a heavier SUV with narrower wheels. The best solution iswas to simply reduce speed and switch to the slow lane, but Porsche 911 drivers are not accustomed to this and believe control systems like ESP would help stabilise the vehicle. "But these were not designed for such a task and could do relatively little to prevent this," the article read, quoting Ulrich Morbitzer, head of sports car chassis development at Porsche," the article reads.

In January this year, Porsche announced a special wet mode system which "includes a function for detecting significant wet road conditions and a corresponding vehicle setup for increased driving stability on wet road surfaces."

12h12 update ends

Shortly after the accident, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) decided for the first time not to prosecute based on the existing, insufficient evidence and referred the case to a magistrate’s court or a formal inquest.

Randburg magistrate Lalitha Chetty ruled on December 11 2014 that Zuma was negligent. Chetty found “the death of the deceased Phumzile Dube was prima facie brought about by the negligent act of suspect 2, Mr Zuma”.

“He failed to conduct himself in a reasonable manner under the circumstances and adverse weather conditions,” she said.

Chetty rejected Zuma’s defence that his car had “aquaplaned” in water as he had admitted to speeding up to overtake a car that was splashing water on the windscreen of his low-slung Porsche.

She said he should have slowed down taking into account the heavy rain at the time of the crash.

The NPA, however, initially elected not to prosecute. AfriForum said last April it would seek a private prosecution of Duduzane Zuma for culpable homicide, prompting the NPA to reverse its decision.


X