MEC for Transport Jackson Mthembu outside the hall, flanked by mayors Milton Moreme and Khosi Mkhonto.

Dear Reader

On the 20th of November I attended a memorial service for the 26 victims of a two truck collision along the R40 national road in Bushbuckridge. When the news reached me I was in Joburg and monitored the casualty list through Sowetan and The Star. The pictures looked horrible and I even got a message from my brother in another province asking me if our family was affected. I checked and found that everyone was fine, anyway everyone is outside of the province and country anyway and the only one who could have been caught in such an accident could have been me - but I was in Jozi.

Then reading about the victims I gathered that the families are obviously poor and the people who died most likely to be breadwinners. I have seen that flat base truck carrying those people through Winter drizzle and cold in the past and I have always wanted to take a picture and make a case with the Department of Transport. I never got to take that picture until the day 26 of those occupants I passed by in the mornings in my fast car perished and finally found some peace.

Then the memorial happened on the 20th and the families filed into Mapulaneng College Hall, heads in doeks, women in shawls and heavy duty blankets, old men in crumpled jackets and unpressed mechanic suits. Faces carrying a mask of pain and loss, covered in memories of a torturous past and an uncertain future. Whisked in by Social development workers offering them bottles of water and tissues to wipe their tears.

Then Mpumalanga MEC for Roads and Transport Jackson Mthembu spoke, starting from a very low tone, then eight minutes into his words of comfort he broke down and cried, wiping tears, swallowing a thick lump on his throat, he openly sobbed and only a chorus brought him back to focus. I looked through all this; his department employs hundreds of traffic officers who allow such unroadworthy cars to continue using the road and endangering the lives of thousands of people. His traffic officers should feel responsible for the 41 orphans who'll never know their fathers and mothers because they settled for that R20 bribe to allow a truck to carry humans on its flat base for so many years.

What really worried me was the cries of pain and the commitment being made by government to help the families with Christmas groceries and proper housing. We've heard this line before, unbelievable its sounds, especially coming from the mouth of a politician. What stressed me the most as I sat in the hall making a story out of people's misery was the eerie absence of the so-called wealthy people who have enough money to donate to political parties while they can't do the same to 26 poor people.

Why can't those with R10 million to give at a drop of a hat give at least R1 million to build houses for these families and help them live life after the funeral, after the media contingent has packed its notebooks, dictaphones and cameras and gone to booze and smoke dagga.

26 people died unneccesarily, a government is seeking scapegoats without any intention of bringing the contractor to book because rumour has it that he's related to a top politician in the province, the government is speeding a mass funeral because some of the people who died were from Mozambique and Zimbabwe without work permits and some heads might roll if the process is not speeded. People might start asking how foreigners were employed by a local contractor. Maybe the politician in question has shares in the company that's why a cover-up will suit her fine.

I'm just a journalist you know; this should be just another story that I do; probably it will be because after the weekend I will be doing other stories, probably happy ones. But we can't be a society that prides itself on so many wealthy people who only donate to political parties to access government tenders while the homefront is under siege. Maybe I'm just being an idealist. Maybe I should be a politician for a day and I'll understand. Maybe....

Yours Faithfully

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