Hours before his death Collins Chabane, minister of Public Service and Administration, warned his colleagues to avoid long distance driving and of the risks of being involved in road accidents — the very thing that would kill him and his bodyguards.
Travelling with two SAPS VIP Protection Unit members — Lesiba Sekele and Lawrence Lentsoane — Chabane died early yesterday morning when his car crashed into a truck on the N1 between Limpopo and Pretoria.
Revealing details of the crash yesterday in a media briefing, Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, said the minister’s car and the truck were travelling in the same direction, with the latter on the left.
It was as the truck driver made a u-turn, that Chabane’s car slammed into it. What remained was a mangled piece of steel and rubber as well as fragments of what used to be a white VW Toaureg.
The truck — still very much intact — stood in the middle of the freeway, a slight dent on the side the only evidence that it had been involved in a crash. Just hours before, Chabane, known in the ANC as the Animal, had been addressing mourners at the funeral of local leader Samuel Nxumalo in Magona. He implored them to refrain from travelling long distances, warning that fatigue would set in.
The result, Chabane warned, was a plethora of road fatalities. While Radeba would neither deny nor confirm allegations, we have learnt:
* Tests by police show the truck driver was allegedly drunk; and
* The truck’s license disc had expired on December 31.
Radebe said police investigations would reveal the cause of the crash.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a police officer, who attended the scene, said tests done to determine the alcohol level of the truck driver indicated that he was drunk. “On arresting the truck driver we conducted tests on him. It came out as 0,08%, which is above the legal limit of 0.02%,” said the officer.
He said no one was allowed to drive after exceeding the legal alcohol limit. According to the officer, the truck driver has been charged with culpable homicide, reckless and negligent driving and for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Ngoako Ramatlhodi, minister of mineral resources, yesterday recalled his final farewell to his friend of nearly 40 years as that of a friendly wave across a crowded National Assembly floor on Thursday. They never got a chance to speak during that session in Parliament. Ramatlhodi, who is in London attending a conference, said he was devastated by Chibane’s death.
“This is just such a big shock,” he said by phone. Since the late 1970s, the two men’s political careers have run parallel, this after they met at the University of the North in 1977. Ramatlhodi was head of the University’s arts and culture organisation where he met a young Chabane. “Then he was an actor. He wrote and directed,” he recalled. But there was more to the arts and culture organisation. Ramatlhodi was also working for the underground.
He soon introduced Chabane to politics and recruited him into the ANC. “He was a little on the quite side, but could also be a grand performer who danced and played musical instruments.” Chabane was sent out of the country for military training in 1979. When he later returned to South Africa he was arrested. When released from jail in 1990, Chabane headed back to the then Northern Transvaal.
A year later he served in the ANC National Executive, of which Ramatlhodi was also a member. Chabane went on to serve as an MEC in Ramatlhodi’’s cabinet in Limpopo. Ramatlhodi, who wants to be close to Chabane’’s family to help them through the grief, said of his friend’s death: “All I can say is that he ran his race.”
–Olebogeng Molatlhaw and Shaun Smillie