The man accused of being behind the wheel of a Toyota Quantum minibus taxi that killed three children in Mdantsane about two weeks ago has finally been arrested.
The man, identified in court documents yesterday as Avuyile Qengwa, 22, was arrested at his Mdantsane home on Saturday afternoon following an intervention by the chairwoman of Eastern Cape provincial legislature’s women’s caucus, Deborah Komose.
There were four girls on the sidewalk on the afternoon of Saturday August 12 selling chocolates and sweets when the taxi, allegedly being driven by Qengwa, rammed into them.
Witnesses on the scene alleged that Qengwa was entering Mdantsane from town when he tried to overtake a vehicle and lost control of the taxi.
The vehicle left the road and hit seven-year-old Unabo Lindani, her sister Thandolwethu Lindani, 11, and their nine-year-old friend Lilitha Mnyana.
Unabo and Lilitha died at the scene and Thandolwethu succumbed to her injuries at the Cecilia Makiwane Hospital later that evening. The fourth child was uninjured.
Qengwa was also not injured in the crash. He handed himself over to Mdantsane NU1 police three days after the crash, but was released without being charged.
Asked for comment then, Mdantsane police spokesman Captain Nkosikho Mzuku said the suspect was released at the behest of the senior public prosecutor.
The decision to arrest Qengwa came following an outcry from residents, who voiced their dissatisfaction with the police on social media.
Last Friday, the day of Unabo and Thandolwethu’s funeral, Komose said she received a call from a resident slating police for releasing the driver without charging him.
Speaking to the Daily Dispatch yesterday Komose said: “I fail to understand why someone would be released without being charged when children have died. When I was told that the driver disappeared for three days, just for him to be released when he handed himself over to police, I said to myself ‘not in my time, not in my name and not in the name of the children’.
“I immediately called the provincial police commissioner [Lieutenant-General Liziwe] Ntshinga and I asked her to explain to me how it works. The commissioner even asked herself ‘how does it happen’ and I told her ‘that is exactly what I want to find out from you’.”
Komose said Ntshinga contacted her on Saturday to say the accused has been arrested.
Qengwa appeared in the Mdantsane Magistrate’s Court yesterday facing charges of culpable homicide. His case was postponed to Friday for a formal bail application.
Qengwa’s family has enlisted the services of East London attorney Asanda Pakade to defend him.
State prosecutor Nondumiso James told magistrate Nolundi Mkwali: “The state is opposed to bail because of the public outcry on the matter and for the personal safety of the accused.”
Pakade shot down this submission saying his client should be granted bail. “This incident happened more than a week ago and the accused is still walking.
“Nothing has happened to him. I don’t know where the state is getting this thing that the accused is not safe.” — firstname.lastname@example.org