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Johannesburg - The defence minister is liable for damages suffered by a Groblersdal man shot nine times during a 2003 robbery with an army-issued automatic rifle, Beeld reported on Friday.
The SA National Defence Force would have to pay for the injuries suffered by Leon van Beneke, who spent months in intensive care and still walks with difficulty, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled.
The rifle parts and ammunition were stolen piece by piece by Jacob Motaung, an employee at the Infantry Military Base in Middelburg, and given to one Vusi Mahlangu, with the knowledge that Mahlangu intended to commit armed robberies.
Five appeal court judges agreed unanimously that the defence force had a constitutional obligation to protect the country's citizens.
Van Beneke was given leave to pursue his damages claim.
“There is no doubt that enormous damage can be inflicted on the public when defence force weapons are inadequately guarded.
“The minister of defence must take responsibility when her employees do not perform their duties as far as the safeguarding of weapons is concerned,” the judges said.
Furthermore, the minister had not managed to convince the court that everything possible had been done to prevent the theft of the weapons.
The judges ordered the minister to pay Van Beneke's legal fees in the high court and the appeal court. - Sapa