How 11 moms paid ultimate price

Emotions run high at memorial service for Bay women

Relatives comfort each other at a memorial service for the hawkers who died
Relatives comfort each other at a memorial service for the hawkers who died
Image: Brian Witbooi

Mourners at a Kwazakhele hall this week gasped and shrieked as details of a horror road accident that claimed the lives of 11 women hawkers from Nelson Mandela Bay emerged.

The emotional memorial service in the Norris Singaphi Hall on Tuesday was temporarily adjourned as the person who had organised the fateful May 7 trip to Johannesburg, Nolusapho Kula, tried to relay the events leading to the accident.

An emotional Kula, from Zwide, broke down as cries of a bereaved family member sounded through the hall.

Speaking to the Herald, Kula, 56, said the party had been travelling in a convoy of three minibus taxis on their way to Johannesburg to buy stock for their various businesses in the Bay.

“We had just left Colesberg as a convoy after a short stop at the garage.

“Suddenly the trailer swerved and [came] loose from the taxi in front of us. The taxi flew in the air and then overturned,” she said.

Nandipha Ncula, 24, from Njoli, who escaped with minor injuries, alleged that speed was a factor in the accident.

“We were the last to leave the garage in Colesberg but when we hit the freeway our driver overtook the other two taxis we were travelling with, and a truck.

“Suddenly the taxi swerved as if it was about to hit something – but there was nothing in sight,” she said.

“I heard the taxi driver screaming, then I hit my head against the window and lost consciousness. I woke up in a stream and was taken to the hospital.

“I saw two other people who were in the taxi being airlifted to hospital because they had major injuries.”

Ncula said she had not been able to sleep since the accident.
“I dread going to bed. The accident keeps on replaying in my brain.”

Kula, who has organised trips of this kind for 30 years, said she only knew seven of the 10 people who had died at the crash scene as some people had been recruited by people outside of her region.

Despite this she had visited all 10 families, she said. The eleventh victim died on Tuesday. “There are people who are trying to defame me, saying I am responsible for the loss of their families’ possessions,” Kula said. “That is not true.

“I have not slept since the accident.”

Koleka Ndadu, from Zwide, said she was not sure what her family was going to do now that her sister, Nomathamsanqa Ndadu, was gone.

“Nomathamsanqa had only been working as a hawker for five months following years of unemployment,” Ndadu said.

“She was the only breadwinner at home and supported our family of four.”

National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry regional secretary Mandla Mzizi and Ward 21 councillor Sizwe Jodwana expressed sadness at the deaths and disappointment at the absence of any municipal officials at the memorial service.

Mzizi said the victims were all single women who had run SMMEs (small, medium and micro-enterprises).

“These women left their children to try to improve their wellbeing. The sad part is that the municipality is not even here to show support,” Mzizi said.

“We are looking for strategies [to] make the products the women were selling more accessible here in PE instead of them having to go to Johannesburg.”

Mayoral committee member for economic development, tourism and agriculture, Andrew Whitfield, said yesterday he did not know about the incident and expressed his shock at the news.

Two survivors are still in hospital.