In delivering his judgment, Magistrate Tebogo Thupaatlase pointed out that the court’s duty was to establish whether Duduzane had driven negligently. Thupaatlase said it is common cause that it was raining on the night of the incident.
He said taxi driver Vusumuzi Dlamini’s evidence was not of assistance to the court case. Dlamini drove the taxi that was crashed into by Zuma’s car.
“The analysis of the evidence of Mr Dlamini reveals that he did little to assist the court. He didn’t see the vehicle that knocked his vehicle and according to him, he heard a voice from one of his passengers that there was a vehicle veering towards them and it was about to collide with his vehicle. There was no preventative step he took to prevent the collision… there is not much turning on his evidence that can assist the court in the determination of the guilt or otherwise of Mr Zuma,” Thupaatlase said.
The magistrate said it was common cause that on the day of the accident it was raining. Thupaatlase pointed out that Matron Madikane was the only state witness who said that she saw Duduzane’s vehicle, but said Madikane was not a model of a good witness. Thupaatlase disputed the State’s assertion that Matron Madikane was a competent witness. He said the court “does not share this sentiment”.
“The evidence of Ms Madikane must also be taken in the context of where she was seated in the taxi. While the court accepts that she was of the mature age of 78, and that the accident might have had a traumatic experience on her, she was not a model of a good witness. She was a difficult witness especially in the cross-examination and refused to answer some questions. Despite being projected as a very good witness by the State, this court does not share that view.”
Thupaatlase said the State had to prove that Zuma had foreseen the death of Phumzile Dube.
The court accepted the evidence of witness Michael Jankelowitz who had testified during the trial that it was raining heavily on the day of the crash. He added that there was no burden on Zuma to prove his own case, but that the onus rested on the prosecution to prove the accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
In making its determination, the court acknowledged the wet road conditions and that in such conditions the driver must proceed with caution. The court said the question of critical importance was what steps a reasonable driver would have taken in the prevailing conditions.
It said evidence delivered by State witnesses did not conform with assertions that Zuma had acted negligently and should have foreseen the death of Phumzile Dube. Thupaatlase said both the taxi driver’s and Madikane’s evidence was insufficient to prove Zuma had been negligent or that he should have foreseen the death of Dube.
Dube’s family were present in court. The family has been travelling between South Africa and Zimbabwe during the cause of the trial as Dube was originally from that country.
Duduzane was supported in court by his father and sister Duduzile on Friday. They have been an almost constant feature at every sitting.
The court said the state had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, and found Duduzane not guilty of culpable homicide and negligent driving.
During the trial Duduzane’s legal representative Michael Hellens argued that his client could not have foreseen that he would encounter a puddle of water in the middle of a freeway. Hellens had further argued that his client could not have known that his Porsche had a high propensity for aquaplaning.
The court said there was no evidence that Zuma failed to keep a proper lookout and exercise caution.
“There was an unforeseeable puddle of water and any reasonable driver might not have avoided the situation,” said Thupaatlase.
Duduzane was prosecuted after lobby group AfriForum forced the NPA’s hand when they threatened to prosecute him if the NPA wouldn’t. The NPA re-visited the case against Duduzane and decided to charge him with culpable homicide.
A statement on Afriforum’s website said the lobby group had achieved its goal and would abide by the court’s decision.
Speaking after the ruling on Friday, former president Zuma said he was relieved that his son had come out a victor in this case. DM
Additional reporting by Ayanda Mthethwa
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