Police must pay Brits man R900 000 for lost eye

FILE PICTURE: A police officer looks on as residents protest. Picture: Refilwe Modise

A Brits man who lost his eye after a policeman shot him in the face with a rubber bullet during service delivery riots four years ago has been awarded R900 000 damages.

Judge Aubrey Ledwaba on Tuesday confirmed a settlement in the North Gauteng High Court in terms of which the Police Minister agreed to compensate Gift Matseke for the damages he suffered as a result of the February 2010 shooting.

According to court papers Matseke had just left an internet cafeĀ  in Brits when he was hit with a rubber bullet, causing the loss of his left eye.

The police initially denied any wrongdoing, claiming Matseke had been shot during service delivery riots during which demonstrators blocked the road with stones and burning tyres, stopped other members of the public from going to work and damaged vehicles that were passing.

The police alleged they had only opened fire with rubber bullets when the demonstrators refused to disperse.

According to a psychological report Matseke emphatically denied taking part in the riot and insisted he had been an innocent bystander when he was shot.

He initially sued the police for over R2,4 million for his past and future medical costs, loss of earnings, loss of amenities of life, permanent disability and emotional trauma.

Psychologist Dr Kobus Truter said in a report Matseke suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder with severe depression and anxiety for which he urgently needed therapy.

He feared going blind, had nightmares about the incident, battled to accept his injury and still felt embittered towards the police.

He also became weepy when he described how people mocked him and called him names such as “Terminator” because of his disfigurement.

Matseke was employed as a team leader for a construction company at the time, but lost his job.

Whereas he was able to lay more than a thousand bricks a day, he now found it difficult to take measurements, feared climbing scafffolding because of his poor balance and could only lay about 300 bricks per day with help.

He managed to find alternative employment but told the psychologist he made mistakes, although he was treated sympathetically.

He also no longer played soccer, stopped cycling and was no longer able to enjoy life to the full.

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