Media painted blue light driver as villain, court told

Johannesburg - The media portrayed "blue lights" driver Joseph Motsamai Semitjie as a villain, the Krugersdorp Magistrate's Court heard on Thursday.

"He was highlighted as a villain [and] depicted as a cowboy on the roads by media," psychologist Carl de Jager told the court.

He told the court Semitjie was very depressed and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was taking medication.

The former driver of then Gauteng housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi was convicted of reckless and negligent driving on 3 December.

He was driving Mmemezi to a meeting when he crashed into biker Thomas Ferreira in November 2011.

Ferreira, who was 18 years old at the time, suffered head injuries and was comatose for weeks.

During the trial, the court heard that Semitjie was driving on the left side of the yellow line, and had not switched on his siren and had jumped a red traffic light.

"During the trial the accused blamed [Ferreira] for causing the accident. Did you know that?" Magistrate Abdul Khan asked De Jager.

De Jager said his client had not told him that but he had read it in the newspapers.

When asked by Khan who was to blame for the accident, De Jager said based on what Semitjie had told him about his working conditions, others should also face the blame.

"He can't be blamed alone, the whole circumstance he was working under must be taken into consideration."

At the time, Semitjie was working under very stressful circumstances and under the instructions of Mmemezi, he said.

"In your report you say 'he was working under the instruction of the politician'; were you aware that the accused never gave that evidence?" prosecutor Micky Thesner asked De Jager.

"He said he was instructed to turn the blue lights on, not to drive through a red robot.

"The accident was caused by driving through a red robot, not because of blue lights, which was not under instruction of the politician," Thesner said.

She asked De Jager if a risk profile and psychometric test had been conducted on Semitjie.

De Jager said they had not.

"He was part of the SA police force employed as a VIP driver [and] he drove through a red robot," Thesner said.

Rigorous tests

De Jager told the court VIP drivers underwent rigorous screening tests so he did not see the need to conduct the tests.

Thesner also questioned the objectivity of De Jager's report.

"You need to base your professional opinion on facts."

She said he did not read the court records or get collateral information to verify Semitjie's claims.

"If you are going to testify in a court of law that a person is not a villain we assume you know what the facts are."

De Jager said he was testifying in his capacity as Semitjie's psychologist and not as a forensic expert.

"I did not get the amount of collateral information that the court wants. Mine was to give feedback to the court, that this person was stressed and he is not a villain but a victim."

De Jager had been treating Semitjie since 3 July 2012 and the report did not include any verified evidence, only what he had been told by his client, which could be viewed as hearsay, Thesner said.

She asked why Semitjie only consulted with De Jager eight months after the incident.

De Jager said it was not unique as some people took years to deal with their PTSD.

Earlier the court heard that Semitjie suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia and had had suicidal ideas.

After their first consultation, De Jager said Semitjie was very depressed and he had referred him to a psychiatrist to obtain medication for his depressed mood.

They had had more than 20 consultations since.

The case was postponed to 29 and 30 September for further evidence. The defence team's second witness would be called and two State witnesses.