Not guilty. This was the verdict handed down by Magistrate Tebogo Thupaatlase as he ruled on former president Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma’s culpable homicide, reckless and negligent driving case.
The trial was set out after Zuma’s car, travelling at the time from Fourways to Saxonwold, crashed into a minibus taxi on William Nicol Drive and a passenger in the taxi, Phumzile Dube, later succumbed to the injuries sustained during the 2014 accident.
Zuma had pleaded not guilty to the charge of culpable homicide.
While delivering his judgment on Friday at the Randburg Magistrates’ Court, Thupaatlase said that the state had failed in its mandate of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Zuma was driving negligently.
He added that the court, from the evidence presented before it, could not conclusively conclude that Zuma was speeding nor that he failed to act as a reasonable man would have during the crash.
“There is no evidence that the accused should have foreseen the puddle ... There is no evidence showing what steps he should have taken to avoid aquaplaning,” Thupaatlase said.
Zuma himself had told the court that he had not driven faster than 120km/h and that, at the time of the accident, he had been driving at 90-100km/h because of the weather.
Forensic engineer Konrad Lotter gave testimony that it was possible that the vehicle lost control due to aquaplaning and not because of high speed.
He added that, “as much as the court accepted that the state’s chief witness, 73-year-old Matron Madikane, was a mature witness and that the accident must have been a traumatic experience [for] her, she was also a difficult witness who at some stages refused to answer certain questions”.
Thupaatlase also said that the witness, Michael Jankelowitz, called by Zuma’s legal team had given a compelling testimony.
Having described himself as an avid sports car enthusiast, Jankelowitz’s testimony that he had noticed Zuma’s Porsche before it got involved in the accident and had ample time to read out the number plate was noted by the judge as proof that Zuma was not driving at an excessive speed.
In his closing arguments at the Randburg Magistrate’s Court in June, Zuma’s advocate, Mike Hellens, said that if the court took into consideration the evidence submitted by all parties, on the balance of probabilities, it would find Zuma not guilty.
While prosecutor Yusuf Baba argued that Zuma was not a careful driver on the day of the crash, Hellens asked: “What could he have done?”
Baba had submitted that Zuma could have prevented his car from aquaplaning.
The National Prosecuting Authority had initially decided not to prosecute Zuma and only prosecuted him after AfriForum indicated that they would embark on a private prosecution.
The state withdrew a second charge of culpable homicide after a report from a pathologist indicated that a second victim died of natural causes.