19 December 2012

South Africa: Zimbabwean Bystander Sues Cops for Lost Eye

A Zimbabwean man who lost an eye when police fired a rubber bullet towards him during the De Doorns farm worker protests is suing the South African Police Service (SAPS) for damages. 25 year old Passmore Mandhlaami, a Good Hope farm employee, said he was caught in the crossfire. He was not participating in the strike.

Mandhlaami is suing the South African Police Service (SAPS) because he says his ability to perform his work duties and hopes to achieve his dreams have been shattered. He was planning to get a driver's licence and become a professional driver. However, he says he can no longer lead a normal life and he still needs to find the money for artificial eye surgery.

Jacqui Sohn of Sohn and Wood Attorneys acknowledged that they are handling Mandhlaami's case against SAPS. They are currently investigating the incident and plan to write a letter to the Commissioner of Police.

Mandhlaami explained, "I am failing to come to terms with what happened to me. I am only 25 years old and I have not yet experienced much in life. I was not part of the strike. I was returning from town when I was caught in the crossfire."

"I walked through the road where the police and protesters where fighting. it was the only possible route home. When I walked past the stationary crowd a rubber bullet hit me in the eye. I tried to look around to see the police officer who had shot me but I couldn't see because the pain was unbearable."

According to Mandhlaami, a local man took him to his shack and washed his head. He then accompanied him to a nurse who gave him pain relief tablets and bandaged his eye, which was partially detached from its socket. The nurse arranged for an ambulance to take him to Worcester hospital but it could not get passed the N1 road block. He was forced to return home and wait until the N1 was accessible again. The next day, the nurse successfully organised an ambulance to take him to Worcester where he was referred to Tygerberg hospital. He stayed there for one week.

Mandhlaami reported the case to the De Doorns police station. They took his statement and informed him that a a SAPS official would visit him the following day to find out more. A month has now passed and a SAPS official has never visited.

In an email to GroundUp Captain FC Van Wyk of SAPS Corporate Communication in the Western Cape wrote that SAPS has no record of the incident or the complainant. He asked that Mandhlaami report his complaint to De Doorns SAPS's Station Commander so that it can "thoroughly investigated."

Van Wyk wrote that complaints "against our members are deemed as serious, and we will not hesitate to investigate every allegation of misconduct or brutality."

However, Mandhlaami insists that a SAPS vehicle picked him up on his house on the evening of 13 November and took him to De Doorns police Station where he gave his statement. He says a police officer made copies of his asylum documents and a letter from Tygerberg Hospital. He further says a detective was assigned to the case. However, he says the assigned detective did not show up the following day as promised. He has unfortunately forgotten the detective's name. Following the email from Van Wyk, Mandhlaami said he will take up the suggestion by Captain Van Wyk and go to De Doorns Police Station.

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