Expert witness testimony matches Duduzane’s story

An accident reconstruction expert confirmed in his testimony that the speed at which Duduzane Zuma was travelling when he crashed into a taxi, was approximately 89km per hour as the former president’s son had previously testified.

Konrad Lotter is an independent forensic engineer who was tasked by Zuma’s defence team to compile a report on the accident. In February 2014, Zuma was driving on the M1 South near the Grayston Drive off-ramp in inclement weather and struck a taxi, leaving one person dead and three others injured.

Testifying before the Randburg magistrates court on Thursday, Lotter pointed out that after taking into account the wet roads and a possible coefficient of friction that was possible to calculate the speed of the Porsche, the car would be going at a speed of between 79 and 89km/h.

He further testified that the taxi was doing around the same speed as Zuma was. Lotter’s testimony followed that of Zuma who was cross-examined by state prosecutor Yusuf Baba.

Baba was at pains to examine the issue of Zuma submitting three different speeds in three different reports. Zuma said in his inquest that he was driving at 70km/h, in the insurance assessors report that he went at 80km/h, and in his testimony that he went between 90 and 100km/h.

Lotter was cross-examined by Baba as well who could not understand how he was able to calculate the speed of the vehicle when two other experts could not. Lotter responded by saying that they should have been able to with the information they were given.

Lotter also explained in his testimony that the Porsche 911 model is prone to aquaplaning at very low speeds after Zuma said that his car aquaplaned when he hit the puddle.

Aquaplaning or hydroplaning by the tires of a vehicle, aircraft or any conveyance with wheels, occurs when a layer of water builds between the wheels of the vehicle and the road surface, leading to a loss of traction, preventing the vehicle from responding to control inputs like brakes.

Lotter said Porsche had even installed a “wet mode” in their new vehicles due to the probability of its vehicles aquaplaning. Baba questioned how many criminal cases Lotter has been involved in where this phenomenon has been encountered.

The court also saw independent witness Michael Jankelowitz, a driver who happened to be driving past at the time of the accident, take the stand. Jankelowitz said he saw Zuma drive past him on the night of February 1 2014 and saw a car’s headlights facing him for a second in the distance a few minutes later, leaving him to conclude that a car had spun out.

Jankelowitz said that he then passed the Porsche and taxi. However, Baba was concerned about why Jankelowitz had never brought this information forward until now. He responded saying that he did not care, but once he heard that advocate Gerrie Nel was going to take on this trial, he knew that Nel would “go for blood”.

The court was adjourned and arguments are now postponed until June 20, which keeps Zuma and Phimilaze Dube’s family — the mother who was killed in the crash— waiting for a judgment in what has already been a long case.

Albert Dube, the brother of Phimilaze, told the Mail & Guardian that they leave the decision in the court’s hands, but would hope for a judgment soon as they have waited five years for the case to be resolved and because Phimilaze’s mother stays in Zimbabwe and it is expensive for her to keep going back and forth to attend court hearings.

Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia is a member of the Mail & Guardian's online team.
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