Kuga fire death: Gerrie Nel joins justice fight
Family of victim Reshall Jimmy say they hit brick walls every time they try to get some progress in the case
Frustrated by the lack of justice and suspected stonewalling, the family of the late Reshall Jimmy have turned to renowned private prosecutor Gerrie Nel to take up their case.
Jimmy burnt to death in his luxury Ford Kuga in George in December 2015, while on holiday in the Western Cape. Since his death over 80 Kugas have spontaneously burst into flame across South Africa, with Ford conducting three safety recalls on their vehicle. Over 4,500 Kugas were recalled.
Last week Thursday Nel, nicknamed “The Bulldog”, who works for civic rights group AfriForum, wrote to the senior magistrate in George in the Southern Cape, requesting an update on when the inquest into Jimmy’s death would be held.
The letter to magistrate Xhanti Zeka was sent just days before yet another Ford Kuga caught fire on Johannesburg’s London Road on Monday.Last year the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) declined to prosecute Ford and also initially refused to hold an inquest into Jimmy’s death.
After the Jimmy family requested a nolle prosequi [a certificate declining to prosecute], the NPA said they had reviewed their earlier decision on the inquest and that there would be a formal inquest with a magistrate to be appointed and a date given.
That has yet to happen.
The Jimmy family claim they have been blocked and stonewalled at every turn in their search for justice for their brother, with the NPA failing to hold an inquest despite assurances that it would.
In the letter Nel writes: “It is our understanding that the case docket has been referred to your office in order to consider the holding of a formal inquest.
“Please may we request that we be informed of your decision in this regard.”Jimmy’s sister, Renisha Jimmy, said the family was extremely frustrated.
“We have been pushed from pillar to post in our search for justice. All we have ever wanted is for the company [Ford] to acknowledge that they were in the wrong and are responsible for Reshall’s death.”
She said when the NPA last year declined to prosecute Ford or hold an inquest they requested the NPA to provide them with a nolle prosequi.
“The NPA turned around and said no as they had re-looked the decision not to hold the inquest, and that it would go ahead.
“But it has not happened. Instead, for months and months we have been blocked in trying to get answers as to when the inquest would be held.”
Jimmy said it had been over two years since her brother had died, and they were still nowhere near the truth.
“We have been trying with the National Consumer Commission, which is meant to protect consumers rights, but all we are told is that their report is nearing completion.
“Wherever we turn we hit brick walls.”
She said they were ecstatic that Nel had taken up their fight.
“We just pray that this will us closer to getting justice for Reshall and our family.”Nel said when the Jimmy family approached him he told them he would monitor the matter and pursue it if there is no action, “which is what we are doing now”.
“We believe it is time for the magistrate to make a decision on whether there will be a formal or informal inquest.”
He said if it was an informal inquest the magistrate would make a decision based on documents before him, while if it was a formal inquest, the matter would see witnesses called.
“A formal inquest is like a trial where witnesses can be cross-examined. Based on the evidence presented the magistrate will then make a decision.”
He said their letter was about helping the family to finally get answers.TimesLive reported in April that the National Consumer Commission would by mid-May go public with its long-awaited investigative report into whether Ford SA and its sister companies were guilty of “prohibited conduct” with respect to the scores of Kuga SUVs that caught fire.
NCC spokesperson Trevor Hattingh told TimesLive the report had been completed.
“It’s currently being subjected to an internal process of approving the findings and recommendations‚ and engaging with the subject of the investigation (Ford).”
The NCC agreed to let Ford SA have sight of the draft findings and recommendations before the final approval of the report.
Ford SA communications manager Rella Bernardes at the time said the company was duty-bound to contact customers who had “reported problems”‚ and had been doing so to “provide the required support”.
Asked how many had accepted compensation‚ she said: “Any settlements made with customers are strictly confidential. Safety continues to be our priority.”
Eric Ntabazalila, Western Cape NPA spokesperson, said the inquest is in the hands of the magistrate to whom it was referred. He was in the process of finding out if there has been any developments.