On Saturday afternoon, a group of men stood near the gate of the Masilela family home in Verena, Mpumalanga, speaking in low tones. On the other end of the cement-paved yard, a row of old men sat, looking contemplative.
The mood was sombre; the Masilela family had lost two children and their father, Mancani Wonderboy. 

The Masilelas are one of several families left devastated after a taxi and a truck collided on Friday, claiming the lives of 18 schoolchildren and two adults. 

Mancani Masilela was 37 and a worker at Refano Primary School, in Gauteng, which one of his children attended.

Shadrack Masilela

Mancani’s brother, Shadrack (37), says Mancani was not a frequent taxi user. But that day he decided to catch a lift home in the minibus taxi his children used to travel to and from school.

“He uses his own car to travel but yesterday [Friday] he decided that, because he was going to knock off from work early, he will use the transport his kids took. And then the tragic accident happened,” said Shadrack, softly.

Mancani died on a road that Verena residents have been complaining about since the 1990s. As soon as one cross from Gauteng into Mpumalanga, just past Bronkhorstspruit, the wide, smooth R25 road narrows and becomes dusty and filled with potholes. Shadrack says that section of the road has become a high-accident zone. 

“This is also a national road but the government has not been doing anything to resolve this issue. We are still waiting for developments [from government] to fix the road,” he said.

Mancani had worked at Refano Primary School for almost 19 years. He was also a breadwinner for the extended family. 

Mancani’s wife has been struggling to cope with the loss of her husband and her two children. Now she also faces added financial burdens after his death.

Mancani’s younger sister, Phindile Masilela (31), who is a domestic worker in Pretoria, said  the family doesn’t know how it will cope financially without him.

“My brother was a breadwinner here, and also at home [where their parents stay],” said Phindile. “My father is under medication with health problems. Where is he going to get the money for the medication now?

She doesn’t earn enough to help with her father’s medical expenses.

Phindile is clear about where she lays the blame for her brother’s death. “The problem is not people, [the problem is] our road is too small … We’ve got some big vehicles [here]. Each and every week, we are losing our loved ones,” she said. “The community has been complaining about the road for years, but to no avail. Now, 20 people have died on that road in a single day.”

“Just imagine, that lady inside the house, is in deep deep pain,” she said, referring to Mancani’s wife, who sat in a bedroom, away from visitors

Additional images by Rumana Akoob – The Daily Vox