Pretoria - The worst day of Gift Matseke’s life was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, losing his left eye when police fired rubber bullets at protesters.

Not even the fact that the minister of police has agreed to pay R900 000 in damages to Matseke can make up for his nightmare ordeal.

The 29-year-old had claimed R2.4 million in damages from the police in the North Gauteng High Court following an incident near Brits in February 2010, when the police fired at residents during a service protest.

Matseke said in papers before court he loved reading newspapers. Every Thursday, he would walk into town and buy the local newspaper, before going to the internet café to browse the internet for a while.

The Thursday he lost his eye started off no differently, although residents unhappy about service delivery were rioting.

The owner of the internet café told Matseke to leave as he wanted to lock up early because of the riots.

Matseke said as he left the shop he heard a commotion and fell. He touched his face and his hands were covered in blood.

Matseke felt an excruciating pain in his eye which radiated to his ear.

He was taken to a nearby clinic and then transported to the Brits Hospital where his eye had to be removed. He subsequently received a prosthetic eye.

Apart from losing his eye, he also suffered facial and head injuries.

Matseke is holding the police responsible, stating they should not have shot indiscriminately. He feels bitter towards the police for injuring him as he was just a bystander.

At first the police defended the claim, stating that the officers did nothing wrong. They stated that members of the community were rioting and blocked the roads with stones, burning tyres and trees.

According to them, protesters stopped people from going to work and damaged vehicles travelling in Oukasi Road outside Brits.

The SAPS said they ordered the demonstrators to disperse, but they refused and they had no alternative but to shoot at them. But on Wednesday they agreed to settle the matter and pay Matseke R900 000.

Pretoria News