Sanele Goodness May, the man who was behind the wheel of the truck that killed 22 people last week, has a story that needs to be told. But right now, he is battling to speak, write Sibusisiwe Buthelezi, Bekhekile Kuphe and Fred Kockott.
First published by the Daily News
WHILE newspapers and television stations splashed and beamed pictures of Sanele Goodness May crying in the dock on Monday, a Roving Reporters team entered the maze of shacks in the informal settlement of Kennedy Road, in Durban, in search of the man’s home, friends and family.
It was a journey into another world often hidden from public view.
You cannot drive to May’s Kennedy Road “home”, if one can call it that. You need to walk down a treacherous path into a pit of homelessness. It is hard to describe the place. Pictures tell a better story.
Had it been raining each day we visited Kennedy Road this week, our walks down the steep, narrow paths would have been more hazardous. Snaking, illegal electrical connections are woven into the plank-and-cardboard fabric of the place.
“Don’t touch that wall,” said Phiwokuhle Mchunu, who guided us to May’s shack – its walls comprising planks and pallets; its roof, sheets of plastic. All around filth and stink clogs one’s nostrils, but the inside of May’s shack is clean and smells of fresh polish.
Cadbury chocolate wrappings serve as wallpaper. There is clean linen on a single bed. Three shiny pots are neatly placed above each other on the floor near a bucket of water. On a rickety table, there is a container of Rama, Sunlight liquid soap, dish cloths and cutlery.
It was from here that May set out for last week’s truck trip for which he would have probably been paid little more than R700 if he had delivered the goods on time. But he didn’t.
Sanele May now sits in Pinetown police cells, haunted by images of the carnage caused by the truck he was given to drive. He faces 22 murder charges.
While many people blame May for this carnage, others have a different view, in particular those who know how he came to be behind the wheels of a Sagekal Logistics truck last Thursday night.
In Kennedy Road, shack dwellers talk of a jovial young man from Swaziland, excited at having recently found a truck driving job. Before that he had part-time work as a gardener.
At Pinetown police station, we were told that a Mrs Allan – “a white lady May had done garden work for” – had provided him with the clean clothes he wore to court on Monday. Later, waiting for him to be returned from the court, a cousin, Ndumiso Alfred Nsibande, told us that for three days after the accident May had been unable to talk.
“Each time he tried, he broke down, unable to finish a word,” Nsibande said.
But slowly, May began to speak again, enabling family and friends (and hopefully investigators, too) to piece together an account of the fateful truck trip. After each visit, more detail comes to light.
Many stories now abound about that Sagekal Logistics truck, and what happened before it hurtled through the intersection at the bottom of Fields Hill, crushing everything in its path. Some stories have taken a life of their own in the world of social media. It’s hard to tell which are true.
What is not in doubt, though, is that a growing number of people are not buying into the “show no mercy for the driver” line that resulted in May being charged with murder on Monday.
By Wednesday, streams of people – black and white – were visiting May in custody at the police station, offering clothes, food, support and counselling.
This followed a Facebook posting by a Durban resident, Peach Piche, who had visited May early in the week: “He is a broken man. He cries and cries, shakes and asks why he didn’t rather die.”
This posting – as well as the newspaper and television images of May sobbing in court – resonated throughout South Africa and beyond, giving rise to the Facebook page: Support for Sanele Goodness May.
On Thursday night, the number of followers had reached 1 204, and was rising by the hour.
But in Kennedy Road, the talk of May is all in the past tense, as if he might not ever come back. With his shack situated next to Koko’s tuck shop in the Swazi quarter of Kennedy Road, children pass by May’s front door frequently.
“They wonder whether they will ever see him again,” said Nozibusiso Ndzimande.
“He was a ladies’ man – a Kennedy Road gentleman,” said Wanga (surname not provided).
“He didn’t drink and didn’t smoke,” said Bongiwe Mthimkhulu.
“And he was polite,” said Thandeka Sibayeni.
In the last discussion with Roving Reporters, May said he had been treated well by Pinetown police, but that several prisoners had threatened to kill him when he is transferred to Westville Prison on Monday.
“They say that I’ve cried too early. They tell me every day that I will die there.” – Roving Reporters
Now read: Lawyer backs up driver
Following the court appearance Sibusisiwe and Bheke suggested the team visit Kennedy Road shack settlement to find out more about Sanele May’s life and his experience as a trucker – a journey into another world. Through this fieldwork they also got to meet May in custody, scooping other media and landing a front page lead and inside spread in the Daily News.
Photos: Fred Kockott
Sebe arrives at the door of Sanele May’s rented shack.