FAMILIES of the victims of the Rheenendal bus disaster will have to wait until at least April to learn what caused the tragic accident that claimed the lives of 14 schoolchildren as well as the bus driver.
The inquiry into the August 2011 tragedy will resume on April 7 next year following a controversial postponement in the Knysna Magistrate's Court yesterday.
The inquiry began in January this year, but has been beset with postponements. Norman Arendse, the legal representative for the families and also Cricket South Africa's lead independent director, was unavailable as he is currently in India en route to London trying to resolve a scheduling dispute over India's cricket tour to South Africa later this year.
But while the families' instructing attorney Jerald Andrews argued the case should be postponed as Arendse was essential to the inquiry, Dirk Coetsee, for Pravin Singh, owner of bus company African Express, and Eugene Labuschagne, owner of vehicle testing centre TJ's Testing Station, said his clients were being prejudiced.
Coetsee said Western Cape Transport MEC Robin Carlisle had closed down TJ's and it could not be in the interests of justice to delay the case further.
During the last session in July, Tata Motors Limited regional service engineer Martin Graham told the court the bus's brakes did not work and the gears were faulty, although it emerged the bus had passed a roadworthy test at TJ's on April 14 2011 – four months before the tragedy.
Coetsee also questioned who would cover the legal costs of the postponement and that the request for the postponement had only been made a week ago, when all legal representatives knew the inquiry was set down for this week.
"An indulgence is being sought, but at the end of the day costs must be paid. Mr Arendse is representing a group of blank faces, to use the expression in literature. We have to ask who is seeking the postponement, and there should be clarity on who will cover these costs."
Magistrate Derek Torlage agreed with Coetsee the question of costs would have to be revisited. He also said Arendse's presence in India at the time of the inquiry would need to be discussed later.
"I agree with Mr Coetsee that there is a costs consideration, but we also have to look at what would impinge on the [victims'] parents' rights in this matter. The matter is thus postponed and adjourned."