Musician Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye denied on Monday that his car was the one that crashed into a group of school children in Protea North on March 8 last year.
“I did not hit anybody. When I hit the tree there was no one I had hit,” he said in the Protea Magistrate’s Court while being questioned by his lawyer Ike Motloung.
He and co-accused Themba Tshabalala face charges of murder, attempted murder and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
They allegedly crashed into a group of school children, killing four of them and seriously injuring two, while racing along Mdlalose Street.
Maarohanye said he was not aware until much later that children had been killed in the accident. He was told by his friend Tumelo Mukoka, who was a passenger in his car when the accident occurred.
He said he had been driving along Mdlalose Street with Tshabalala behind him before the accident.
“As I looked on my rear-view mirror I could see Themba behind me [in his Mini Cooper S], but when I looked again his car was not there and when I turned to my right hand side I saw him,” Maarohanye said.
He described in detail how the moment he turned to look ahead, Tshabalala’s car hit the back of his causing him to hit a curb and then a tree before he briefly blacked out.
‘I only hit a curb’
Maarohanye added that after his car had crashed, he tried to get out of it, but he was trapped by his seatbelt. Mukoka came to his rescue and pulled him out through the sunroof.
“I then kept asking what had happened. I don’t remember seeing Themba’s car at that moment,” he said.
Asked by Motloung if he had crashed into the school children, Maarohanye said “no”.
When asked how he knew this, he told the court: “I know I didn’t because when I heard the bang and I looked ahead, I only hit a curb before I blacked out.”
He said he heard screams and crying shortly after he was pulled out of the wreckage and some people saying “children”.
“I didn’t know which kids they were talking about. I didn’t see the kids,” he said, adding that the last time he saw children was before he crashed.
He said there were children walking both on the road and on the pavement before the accident, but that he had not paid much attention to them because he was having a business discussion with Mukoka.
‘He feared no one’
Maarohanye dismissed allegations by some witnesses that after the accident he spoke on the phone about how “he feared no one” and “a lawyer”.
He told the court that he witnessed someone slapping Tshabalala while they stood on the side of the road after the accident.
Maarohanye said the incident prompted him to ask a metro police officer to place them in his car.
He also denied that he was under the influence of alcohol and drugs when he crashed and said the police who attended to the accident scene tested him six times and he measured zero for the substance.
“I deny flatly that I was on drugs or alcohol,” he said.
After a short break to compose himself, he was asked why he had been crying.
“I asked for a break because I was emotionally overcome. When that accident took place, part of me died,” he said.
“It is a pity no one knows what I have to deal with — the insults, negative comments — I am really sorry about what happened on that day … I just happened to be part of it. I didn’t plan it. This could have happened to anybody.”
Maarohanye said: “I didn’t kill anybody … my condolences to the families.”
‘What is this case about?’
Maarohanye complained that the media coverage of the case had been unfair as he had been named before he was charged.
He said the accident happened around 2pm and that by 5pm his name was in the news.
“What is this case about? Is it about the four kids who died or Jub Jub?” he asked.
When Maarohanye denied that he had been racing, it sparked anger among some of those attending the trial.
“He’s going to shit his pants. The kids were not killed by trees,” a woman shouted from the public gallery.
Earlier, Maarohanye told the court Tshabalala was not his friend and that he knew him through another artist signed on his record label.
Under cross-examination by Tshabalala’s defence attorney Mlungiseleni Soviti, Maarohanye said he had known him for two or three years before the accident.
He said Tshabalala had been driving on the wrong side of the road when he crashed into the back of his car, causing the accident.
Asked by Soviti how he knew he had not hit the school children, Maarohanye told the court that there was no trace of blood on his vehicle.
“I am sure I didn’t hit the kids because my car didn’t have body damage or blood on it. That’s how I know,” he said.
Soviti told Maarohanye that his co-accused would later tell the court that he was the one driving on the left side of the road in front of Maarohanye and that Maarohanye had been in the lane for oncoming traffic.
Under cross-examination, prosecutor Raymond Mathenjwa challenged Maarohanye’s testimony that a community member assaulted Tshabalala after the accident. He said Tshabalala had also denied that he was assaulted.
Using court transcripts, Mathenjwa pointed out errors between Maarohanye’s testimony earlier on Monday and before then about how his vehicle was positioned prior to the accident and after.
Motloung objected to this and told the court that Mathenjwa had not provided him with the transcripts after he had requested copies.
Magistrate Brian Nemavhidi postponed the case to Tuesday to allow the defence to acquire the transcripts.
The case continues. — Sapa