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‘Unimaginable tragedy’ as five pre-teen learners killed in horror smash in Cape Town

‘Unimaginable tragedy’ as five pre-teen learners killed in horror smash in Cape Town
Police remove school bags from the back of a bakkie at the intersection of AZ Berman Drive and Kerremstraat on 30 May, 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. According to media reports, a bakkie carrying school children collided with a Golden Arrow bus near the Promenade shopping mall. (Photo: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

Cries from parents could be heard just metres from the scene of a horror crash in Mitchells Plain on Tuesday morning as news broke that their children had died while being transported to school.

Five children between the ages of seven and 11 years old died after a vehicle transporting them to school crashed on Tuesday morning in AZ Berman Drive, Mitchells Plain. Two children aged six and 15 years were taken to hospital following the incident. 

Police have arrested the 55-year-old driver of the vehicle following the fatal crash and a culpable homicide case was opened for investigation. 

Daily Maverick learnt that the driver was not the regular driver of the vehicle and that his niece is one of the deceased children. The usual driver of the vehicle did not report for duty on the day. The vehicle was illegally transporting learners, according to the Western Cape government.

“It is an unimaginable tragedy,” reacted Western Cape Education Department (WCED) MEC David Maynier. “I have a young child myself and I cannot imagine what it must be like for a parent to get this terrible news.” 

Distraught parents’ cries could be heard from the road outside AZ Berman Primary School. The incident happened a stone’s throw away from the school and while no learners from the school were involved, Western Cape government officials used the school premises to accommodate the parents who immediately received counselling services. 

scholar transport crash, Mitchells Plain

Parents and relatives arrives at the scene. Five school children have been confirmed dead by police after a driver of a bakkie that is used to transport them hit a tree and overturned on the corner of AZ Berman Drive and Kerrem Street near Beacon Bay in Mitchell’s Plain. (Photo: Xabiso Mkhabela)

Sorrowful community members watched on as law enforcement officials attended the crime scene. 

Subcouncil 17 chairperson and local ward councillor Elton Jansen confirmed that learners from Wespoort Primary School, Lentegeur High School, Duneside Primary School, Highlands Primary School, Harvester Way Primary School and Ridgeville Primary School were in the vehicle at the time of the crash.

While details surrounding the incident are still limited, Western Cape Mobility MEC Ricardo Mackenzie said the driver lost control of the vehicle before it overturned, causing children to be flung from the back of the vehicle.

“The bus and the taxi circulating on social media were not involved in the accident, they were in the vicinity when it happened. What we know so far is that the driver is not a registered driver with a permit and is not on any of our databases.” 

Parents often arrange their own private scholar transport for their children studying far from their homes. These services are privately owned and mostly arranged without the government’s involvement. 

Scholar transport crash, Mitchells Plain

Police and forensic investigators at the intersection of AZ Berman Drive and Kerremstraat on 30 May, 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. According to media reports, a bakkie carrying school children collided with a Golden Arrow bus near the Promenade shopping mall. (Photo: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

In February 2023, taxi drivers prevented private scholar transport services from operating as taxi drivers wanted to be awarded the scholar transport tender.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Taxi drivers prevent more than 1,800 Cape Town learners from going to school

Mackenzie said the vehicle involved in Tuesday’s crash was private transport arranged by the parents and neither his department nor WCED were involved. 

He also confirmed to Daily Maverick that this was not the first incident in Mitchells Plain where learners were involved in a fatal crash while being transported to school. 

Two primary school learners died in two separate incidents in April this year. One learner was from Hazeldene Primary School and the other was from Rocklands Primary.

Mackenzie also confirmed that the vehicle (a bakkie) was not permitted to transport schoolchildren.

In 2012, taxi driver Jacob Humphreys was sentenced to 20 years in jail for the death of 10 school children in a crash and the attempted murder of four others.

Humphreys ignored safety signals at a level crossing and caused a collision with a train, resulting in the death of the children.

He was released on parole in 2016.  

Scholar transport, Mitchells Plain

Police remove school bags from the back of a bakkie at the intersection of AZ Berman Drive and Kerremstraat on 30 May, 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

Damaris Kiewiets from the Cape Metro Health Forum said officials should pay attention to how school children are transported. 

“This is a second incident in just five months and it raises a concern for us as parents. Are these vehicles roadworthy? Would educators and MECs allow their children to be transported in these vehicles?” 

The driver is expected to appear in the Mitchells Plain Magistrate’s Court once he has been charged. DM

For information on operating licences for public transport, please contact the Provincial Regulatory Entity on 021 696 3213/14 or their Applications Helpline on 021 483 0270.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Alan Salmon says:

    Tragic loss of life. Carrying people on the back of bakkies is extremely dangerous and should have been made illegal years ago. Not that there is any law enforcement in SA anyway.

    • Christopher Campbell says:

      Fully agree with a ban on bakkies carrying children. And the driver who killed 10 children was sentenced to 20 years in prison but was out in 4 years. Where is the justice?

    • William Dryden says:

      The transporting of people on the back of bakkies and trucks was banned back in the 1970t’s after a truck overturned that was fully loaded with workers standing up. The law as I understand was that all truck and open back vehicles had to be enclosed with bench seats and a closable rear door. However as can be seen now, since 1994 this law has been ignored by the police.

      • Karen G says:

        There is no concept of safety or possible impending danger in South Africa on the roads.
        How can people think transporting children in the back of an open bakkie is safe? Everyday, I see kids in cars, in the front seat with no safety belt and youngsters who should be in a child seat, just sitting with not even a seat belt on – whilst the parents are driving and looking at their phone. The mind boggles really.

        • P B M .. says:

          Karen G, they do it because of the it-won’t-happen-to-me mentality. And they do it in front of the traffic police a lot of the time and nothing happens to the perps. It’s the same with a whole lot of other traffic infringements in this country. And it will continue as long as traffic officials turn a blind eye to the offenders.

  • Agf Agf says:

    What is interesting to learn in the article above, is that Humphries, who was sentenced to 20 years jail in 2012 was released on parole in 2016. Just 4 years into a 20 year sentence. Really? So much for consequences.

  • Michael Petersen says:

    The issue is that these parents are so poor that very often they must take what they can afford. I have often seen how these people drive, always in a hurry and recklessly on the yellow line and even the centre lane. With loadshedding it is even worse as they do not stop at the robots. It was just a matter of time before there was going to be an incident like this.

  • Susan Buekes says:

    Persons inside a vehicle are charged if seatbelts are not fastened. Why are persons allowed to travel on the back of a bakkie? Its insane.

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