Police change charge after pressure from media
Following the death of six-year-old Aziphezi Mrwashu, who was killed by a 40-something-year-old driver on New Year’s Eve in Reeston, the Eastern Cape Rising Sun launched an investigation into the case after the driver was charged with driving without a licence and later reckless and negligent driving.
The driver plunged into Aziphezi’s home and knocked him over while he was playing with his friends. He died on the same day from head injuries at Frere hospital and the driver was arrested by the community.
Police spokesperson Captain Khaya Tonjeni confirmed on Thursday, January 9 that the charge was reckless and negligent driving. East London police spokesperson Captain Hazel Mqala also confirmed on Friday, January 10 that the formal charge was reckless and negligent driving.
“No one has been arrested as the case is still under investigation,” said Mqala. However, Eastern Cape police spokesperson, Brigadier Thembinkosi Kinana, claims the suspect was arrested on the same day for ‘driving without a driver’s licence and was issued with a fine and released’.
Eye witnesses allege that the driver was drunk and drinking in the car. He was spinning his car when he knocked over the boy, hitting his house, and the neighbour’s house causing visible damage to both properties.
Liaan Murray, an attorney for Bax Kaplan Russell Incorporated, said “The accused was supposed to have been detained immediately. He was supposed to appear in court on January 2, 2020. By now the police should have taken statements from all the eye witnesses and he is supposed to be charged with culpable homicide because he negligently killed a person and only as an alternative charge, reckless and negligent driving. In addition, it is against the law to spin a vehicle in a public community road”.
The mechanic who was fixing the car when the accused picked it up said he was drunk and was still drinking when he got into the vehicle. Last week, the driver visited the Mrwashu family accompanied by his family to apologise for the incident.
On Friday, a source in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) confirmed that there are a lot of irregularities in this case. The source could not understand how the suspect could still be free after he confessed to the family and there are eye witnesses to the incident. She also questioned why he was not charged with culpable homicide, driving under the influence of alcohol and damage to property.
An eye witness who requested not to be named said, “The driver was drunk and he was spinning his vehicle when he lost control and knocked over the boy. After hitting two homes, he re-started his car leaving the boy on the scene and drove to the yard of the mechanic across the road to dump his badly damaged car”.
The EC Rising Sun gave the police an opportunity to re-look this case and possibly give it the correct charge. On January 13, a statement from Kinana read, “After he was charged for driving without a licence, later on, a report was received from the affected family that the child had passed on. The charge was then changed to culpable homicide. The investigation into all the circumstances of the incident is still continuing. Anyone who has information about this incident must please make contact with the police,” he said.
The indigent Mrwashu family buried their son last Saturday through donations from the local councillor, Nokulunga Matiwane and credit from a local funeral parlour. The suspect and his family offered no support.
Aziphezi’s mother Ntombekhaya Mrwashu was not home when the incident occurred.
“When I got home and was told what happened to my son, I thought it was false information,” said the inconsolable parent. She was stunned into a lengthy silence according to neighbour Nommiselo Ntleki who had to deliver the news.
“Aziphezi was a very normal and kind child, respectful, full of jokes and very active. He wanted to become a police officer after school. He was due to start grade one at Nkangeleko Primary School in Reeston,” according to his distraught sister and ‘buddy’ Ayakhanya Mrwashu.