Northern Cape man mauled by dogs two years ago still awaits justice
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Johannesburg - On December 19, 2018, it was a hot day in Thaga Di a Ipela, Northern Cape, when Botshelo Ramolemogi decided to leave his rented room and walk to a nearby tuckshop to buy a cigarette and get some air.
Apart from some children a further away, the street was deserted. The 48-year-old man was lost in his thoughts when he suddenly saw three dogs, two pitbulls and a boerboel, bolt out the open gate of a nearby house and head straight for him.
Terrified, he tried to run but he was not fast enough for the vicious dogs that were baying for blood.
Everything happened very fast. Suddenly he was on the ground screaming in pain as the dogs sunk their teeth into his flesh, savagely mauling him.
Alerted by his searing screams, people rushed to where Ramolemogi was and tried to get the dogs off him.
However, they would not let go.
Taxi drivers who also saw what was happening rushed to the scene to help. It was only when they revved their engines loudly and pretended to run over the dogs that they let go.
On the ground, the traumatised Ramolemogi was covered in blood and open wounds.
He was rushed to hospital but the dogs had caused so much injury to his right arm that it was just hanging and had to be amputated above the elbow.
Since that day, Ramolemogi’s life has changed for the worse. He is unemployed, depressed, financially dependent on his sister Kgalalelo and his body is covered in horrific scars.
Nothing has happened to the owners of the dogs as they were never prosecuted.
What hurts Ramolemogi most, he said, was the fact that the owners of the dogs never even reached out to him to apologise for what happened.
“They have not come to ask for forgiveness, they have not even spoken to me over the phone.
“I don’t think they have remorse over what happened. They are coloured and maybe they look down on me as I’m black. They would probably feel sorry for me if I was coloured like them,” he said forlornly.
The Star wrote about Ramolemogi’s experience in December 2018 and recently reached out to him.
However, his life, he said, had come to a standstill.
While a case was opened, the matter has not yet gone to court.
“Police keep saying the docket is with the prosecutor and they will talk to me,” he said.
The loss of his hand has also hit Ramolemogi hard.
Shortly before the dogs attacked him, Ramolemogi worked as a security guard but tripped and fell.
He had to have a cast on his leg and stayed six weeks at home, unable to walk.
According to his sister Kgalalelo, when he removed his cast and returned to work, he was told that he didn't have a job anymore.
After losing his security guard job, he used to survive on piece jobs but has not been able to get any job since the attack as he only has one hand while the other is injured.
“I am right-handed but I don't have a hand anymore. I am using my left hand but it’s not working properly because it was also bitten by the dogs.
“I used to work for myself but don’t have a job anymore. My life is a mess,” he said.
Since moving in with his sister, Ramolemogi keeps active and exercises his left hand by cleaning the patio and doing the dishes.
When he is done, he keeps his mind occupied by reading.
Before the incident, Ramolemogi used to go jogging, however, that urge to exercise is now gone.
All he does is sit and think of how his life changed for the worst, falling deeper into depression.
“I have stress and can't think straight. I would like someone who can help me get compensation from the owners of the dogs and also help my case go to court,” he said.
Kgalalelo said when his brother was lying in hospital with doctors trying to save his life, one of the owners of the dogs arrived to check on him.
However, she said, she was indifferent to the situation and did not even show she was affected by what happened. Later, Kgalalelo said, the husband of the woman called her and was “very rude” on the phone.
“He said to me that no one will take his dogs away from him.”
The Star spoke to Suzette Pieterse, one of the owners of the dogs shortly after the attack on Ramolemogi.
However, all she was prepared to say at the time was: “No comment. I was not at home at the time. Give me your number and I will get my husband to call you.” However, none of them called.
SPCA Kimberley also confirmed at the time that the dogs had been taken from the owners.
According to Colonel Dimakatso Mooi of the Northern Cape police, a case of failure to prevent an animal from harming a human being was laid with them after the attack on Ramolemogi.
However, no one has been charged and the docket was taken to the public prosecutor to decide, she said.
Spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in the Northern Cape Mojalefa Senokoatsane said the matter was forwarded to the deputy director of public prosecutions.
“It (the case) is being given all the necessary attention that it requires. As it is a highly sensitive matter it will take longer than anticipated, but we promise to provide you with the report in no time,” he said.
Asked why the NPA had not even started prosecution two years after the incident, Senokoatsane did not answer.
According to Gary Austin, a personal injury lawyer from Gary Austin Attorneys, it is possible for people like Ramolemogi to sue.
Firstly, Austin said, they would have to prove that the owners of the dogs were negligent by allowing them access to the public. Austin said the aggrieved party could sue for past medical expenses incurred, for future medical expenses that will be incurred, loss of income both past and future, and general damages for pain and suffering.
“The problem is that private owners don’t usually have money to pay the damages unless they have some sort of household insurance which covers them. It will depend on the circumstances as to whether it is financially viable to pursue such a claim. The claim must be made within three years of the incident. Each must be evaluated on its own merits.”
Austin said they have in the past successfully sued dog owners whose animals bit people causing injury.
“We have done so successfully many times, but sometimes the financial viability has impeded us. Every claim has a different value depending on many facts such as the nature of the injury; person’s age; whether it affected the persons working career permanently or temporarily etc,” he said.
The Star also reached out to Kgalalelo Letshabo, spokesperson of Phokwane Local Municipality, to find out what their by-laws say regarding ownership of pets and vicious dogs.
However, she never responded.
While the NPA is still deliberating on the case and the owners of the dogs have moved on with their lives, Ramolemogi still lives in the hope that one day he will get justice.