The affordable education loan option
Pretoria - The minister of police, in his official capacity, has been ordered to pay R10.1 million to a North West company which prospects for diamonds, after its equipment was vandalised by residents while police merely looked on.
Exploration Omega Company Ltd (the plaintiff) said in papers before the Pretoria High Court that it had asked at least 12 times for the police’s help. The company either received empty promises or in some instances SAPS members merely looked on while the thugs destroyed equipment and threatened the management.
The company gave the SAPS notice of the damages claim and served papers on the minister.
The SAPS did not bother to respond and on Thursday the company eventually obtained default judgment against the police - which the taxpayer will have to pay.
Taung Giant Diamond Miners, the holder of a prospecting right for diamonds, entered into an agreement with the applicant in 2009 to prospect for diamonds in Vryburg in North West.
After consulting community leaders, especially the chief of the Taung area, the mining company brought in its equipment.
First, its Volvo front loader was parked at the offices of the tribal council to indicate to the community that the chief had agreed to the prospecting activities.
The plaintiff started establishing the site in March 2011, by parking a caravan on the site. This was burnt down a few days later by some residents. The company laid a charge with the police.
A week later, a pick-up truck used by the head of security on-site was burnt to ashes by some residents.
Another criminal charge was laid at the Taung police station.
The plaintiff then obtained the services of a security company to patrol and guard the site.
The mine manager again consulted the community leaders and moved the rest of the equipment to the site. Soon after that the windows of the Volvo front loader were smashed. That incident was also reported to police.
On April 14, 2011, six officers from the Taung police station arrived at the site after they had been called by the plaintiff’s employees, asking for protection from the vandals.
It was stated that the policemen did nothing other than witnessing the vandalism.
That night, a crowd marched to the site office, where they damaged another front loader, while police looked on.
The front loader was found the next day, 15km from the site.
Criminal charges were once again laid with the police.
During April to June 2011, the on-site head of security phoned the police on various occasions, asking for protection against the criminal elements in the community.
The police refused to assist.
Eventually three suspects were caught and they appeared in the local magistrate’s court, where they were released on bail, with one of the conditions being that they could not enter the site.
They ignored this and, on their release, returned to the site, with other residents, where they intimidated the site manager.
They threatened to kill him and to burn the rest of the equipment.
The court was told that this was done in the presence of the SAPS, who did nothing.
Residents, including the three accused, planned a march to the site to vandalise it, and the mine management again called the police. The SAPS promised to protect the mine and it its staff and in fact said they had everything under control.
The protesters meanwhile arrived at the site and hurled rocks and petrol bombs at the equipment.
The mine workers fled for their lives, but an elderly woman could not get away and she was severely assaulted by the crowd.
When the police eventually arrived and saw the crowd, they immediately drove off to escape the community’s wrath.
The court papers say the mine suffered R56.8m in damages, as it could not proceed with its operations. This amount included loss of income and the equipment that had been destroyed.
The company is, however, only claiming for the loss of equipment, as the SAPS did not lift a finger to assist in protecting the mine.