Duduzane: ‘It was the road, not me’
He couldn't foresee a puddle on a national highway, argues his lawyer in bid to have case scrapped
The state had barely finished wrapping up its case against Duduzane Zuma in court on Thursday when his lawyer brought an application for the entire matter to be scrapped.
Former president Jacob Zuma’s son will hear on Friday morning whether the case in which he has been charged with culpable homicide will be withdrawn in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court. His lawyer, Mike Hellens, believes there is no evidence to show Zuma was driving recklessly in his Porsche 911 Turbo, causing a deadly road accident in 2014. In fact, Hellens has argued that the four-wheel-drive crashed because of aquaplaning – that, basically, he lost control of the vehicle because of water on the surface of the road.
Prosecutor Yusuf Baba argued after lunch that Zuma’s culpability lies not in his car sliding after hitting a puddle of water, but not doing enough beforehand to drive safer.
“At the end of the day, that human being behind the steering wheel is in control of how he behaves on the road.”
Hellens hit back: “What they (the state) haven’t established is at what point in time was Mr Zuma, as a reasonable driver, expected to foresee that there will be a puddle on a national highway. This is not some country road. On a national highway of such significance that driving around 90 to 100km/h, so the experts tell us, he would lose control of his vehicle. Where is that in the state’s case? It’s nowhere.”
Zuma is facing one count of culpable homicide and one of negligent driving. Another charge of culpable homicide was dropped on Tuesday. Minibus taxi passengers Phumzile Dube and Jeanette Mashaba died following after Zuma’s Porsche 911 Turbo crashed into a minibus taxi on February 1 2014.
Baba said on Tuesday the state had consulted with a pathologist and Mashaba’s death was a result of a pre-existing condition and was not linked to the accident. She died in hospital in May that year.
Zuma pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. He said in a statement, read out by Hellens, that he lost control of his car after driving through a pool of water which he did not see due to the poor visibility from the rain.
Porsche announced in January 2019 that it will introduce a wet mode system into its 911 models which “includes a function for detecting significant wet road conditions and a corresponding vehicle set-up for increased driving stability on wet road surfaces”.
Baba argued that the wet mode is part of the gradual development and improvement of all cars.
“Twenty years ago there was no ABS (anti-lock braking system) brakes … It has got safety features, more than any other car.”
Hellens said the wet mode is “not some slow advance from ordinary braking to ABS braking. This was an acknowledged defect.”
Road accident expert Johann van Loggerenberg testified on Wednesday that human error could have led to the crash.
“The human being could have made an incorrect decision leading to an incorrect action.”
Van Loggerenberg was working for the metro police and was called out to the crash which occurred at about 10pm. He arrived at the scene at 11.50pm after attending to another crash.
Van Loggerenberg testified that most drivers either brake or accelerate when a car starts sliding, which would exacerbate the aquaplaning.
He believes that if the Porsche aquaplaned, the tyres of the car must have been smooth.
During cross-examination, Van Loggerenberg conceded that aquaplaning and smooth tyres are not mutually exclusive, and agreed and did not dispute a report which found the Porsche and its tyres were roadworthy.
Duduzane’s father made a brief appearance at the court on Wednesday. He said he could not rule out the possibility that the case against Duduzane was an attempt to get back to him.
Asked by an SABC reporter about comments that the case was an attempt “to get back at you as the former president for whatever gripe they might have had against you”, Zuma said it was “difficult to say that is not the case”.
An inquest into the incident previously found Duduzane was not to blame, but after pressure from AfriForum, the case was reopened.
“There was a process that was undertaken [the inquest], which is a legal process, and it was concluded. Why then come back? And when you come back there is no overwhelming evidence to say there was indeed negligence. So it’s difficult to say there wasn’t that kind of element [of revenge],” Zuma snr said.
“I’m not a legal person, but listening to the arguments being presented, it’s clear there is no evidence that has been given that he [Duduzane] was reckless. But we leave everything to the worship (the magistrate) to take the decision.
“But I’m hoping for a positive outcome.”