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Pretoria - A shop and tavern owner from Khutsong in Carletonville, who cannot see after losing his one good eye when police fired rubber bullets at a group of protesters he was part of, told the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday how his businesses are suffering.
The court earlier ruled the police were totally liable for the damages suffered by Judas Skhabela because they had been negligent when they opened fire on the group, resulting in a rubber bullet hitting him in the eye.
At the time, Skhabela had one functioning eye, having lost sight in the other as a child.
The court heard that the bullet hit Skhabela’s eye and lodged in his nasal cavity. According to Skhabela he later “coughed it out”.
Since completely losing his eyesight, his wife had to take over the running of his business and things have not gone well, he said.
Skhabela’s ordeal started on November 3, 2005, during service delivery protests in his community.
He was among a group that marched from a local stadium to the police station.
Skhabela later returned home and was watching television, when he heard a group singing and passing along the main road behind his home.
As he feared looting of his businesses he followed the group of about 40 people to see where they were going. The group stopped in an open area in the township. He said he stood watching with some other people across the road.
The group was singing peacefully when the police appeared on the scene, he said.
Without asking any questions or warning, the police started firing at the crowd with rubber bullets from inside their vehicle - a Nyala. The crowd scattered and Skhabela ran into the yard of the nearest house to hide.
He hid behind a wall and peeped through a crack. He then felt something hit his right eye.
He cried for help and crawled to the kitchen of the house where he was hiding. He was taken to hospital where it was discovered that he had lost his remaining eye.
The police officer in command, a Captain Hicks, testified earlier that his team had encountered an “enormous” and hostile crowd that attacked the police with petrol bombs, live ammunition and rocks.
The situation was volatile and could not be defused through negotiations, he said.
The SAPS had only fired next to the large crowd. No fire was directed at any of the houses, as this would be “against standing instructions”, he said.
It was also claimed that police shot into the ground or into the open veld - and not at people.
In finding the SAPS negligent, the court found that the police did not fire into the ground, as Skhabela was hit in the face with a rubber bullet while standing up.
The case resumed on Tuesday with the evidence of expert witnesses to determine how much money Skhabela should be awarded.