No, this is not a post about Mike Ross, or the brilliant TV Series Suits. I chose this picture of Mike Ross because he is probably the ONLY individual (fictitious I might add) that can get away with practicing law without a law degree.
Those of us who are suddenly exposed to the ins and outs of court cases via our beloved Facebook and Twitter CANNOT. Surprisingly, following @barrybateman or signing Avaaz Petitions does not make you a legal expert.
I am not innocent when it comes to formulating my own misguided or ill-informed judgements about those on trial, such as our notorious/famous Oscar, but we have got to start being careful about the broad statements we make on social media, or the petitions we blindly sign without allowing the justice system, and those who are actually qualified in that system, to do their job.
I’m talking about this with reference to Sanele Goodness May, and the Avaaz petition regarding his murder charges related to the horrific accident that took the lives of 22 people on Thursday 5 September 2013, in Pinetown, KZN.
When I first watched the footage of the accident I was mortified. My parents both used to work in the Westmead area and use that road, and that offramp in particular, every working day for many many years. For my father he must have cycled and driven that offramp for at least 2 decades. It is a busy and notorious road for its gradient and scary bends.
And the footage looked like a scene from an action movie, not something that happens in real life. I can’t even begin to imagine what those mere seconds must have felt like for 23 year old Sanele who was driving the truck.
Absolutely horrifying. I don’t think any of us can imagine the grief, shock and fear he must be living in right now being charged not with 22 accounts of culpable homicide, but with murder. MURDER. x22.
Over the last few days the Avaaz petition has been circulating, calling for justice for May, saying that he should not be facing these charges, but that the company that allowed him to operate an unroadworthy vehicle should be the ones being held to blame.
Please do not get me wrong, I do not sit here placing all blame on the young man, nor am I “un-empathetic” towards him. I hurt for him and the pain and guilt he must be feeling with every waking second. But neither you, nor I, nor the next person, know what went wrong with the truck.
My father has worked in the transport/truck industry for at least 40 years. When I asked him what he thinks went wrong and if the brakes had failed, this was his response:
Trucks brakes do not fail as they have emergency systems, but what does happen is that they are not properly maintained or are cooked through overuse down a long hill and fade because the brake linings lose their friction qualities as they get hotter. So to sum it up it is human error either in the maintenance of the system or the driver abusing the brakes on the many downhills. That is why they have compulsory stops where they are supposed to engage low gear for the duration of the descent, utilising the engine to assist the brake system.
According to him, and I would say he is pretty well-qualified in the mechanics of 18-wheelers, it could be either negligence from the company OR the driver.
I most definitely agree that Sagekal Logistics (if that is indeed the employers, and owners of the truck) should be charged alongside him - if that is even how the justice system works. But either way they should both be subjected to investigation to get to the bottom of this.
Trucks should technically not be using that road, but should rather be making use of the N3 toll road between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, and this tragedy may be used to change the rules of the road in that particular area to prevent further such tragedies from occuring. But it is essential that the investigations focus on finding out the reasons for this truck losing control, and then the relevant authorities must ensure that the person who is at fault is held accountable, and do whatever is necessary to try prevent the same occurring again.
It would be completely unacceptable for Sanele Goodness May to be the scapegoat for a negligent trucking company if they are allowing trucks that are not roadworthy to travel our roads, but we need to make sure we allow for the proper legal proceedings to take place before we make sweeping judgements that the driver is not at fault. (Similarly on the other hand we must guard against aggressively blaming May for the tragedy in its entirety).
I really do feel for the young man. Whether he is charged or not I believe the memories of that night will live with him and haunt him for decades to come, and for that I believe he should not be denied adequate counselling, not to mention he is absolutely entitled to fair legal representation.
But just remember, those of us who do not have law degrees, and do not have the IQ of Mike Ross, need to be careful when signing petitions about legal proceedings. Pity for the young man must not stand in the way of a just criminal trial, in the same way pity for Oscar should not.
Let’s be careful not to become legal experts by virtue of who we follow on Twitter, or which petition we happen to read and sign. The owner of that truck should DEFINITELY be brought under scrutiny, and we need to ensure that May is provided with the appropriate legal representation for his case to be handled professionally. These things can and should be included in a petition, but let us not immediately assume the innocence of the man behind the wheel. Most of us are not in the position to do so.