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Fight for police officers injured on duty headed to Union Buildings

Roebel Botha is now wheelchair-bound and battling to make ends meet. Picture: File

Roebel Botha is now wheelchair-bound and battling to make ends meet. Picture: File

Published May 3, 2022

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Pretoria - The wife of a police officer, who was injured 24 years ago while on duty, is still facing an uphill battle to receive compensation and is now gearing up to march to the Union Buildings.

Charmaine Botha will do so on behalf of about 108 other officers in the same boat to ask President Cyril Ramaphosa for urgent intervention.

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“These people were all once good police officers, but they can no longer work as they are disabled. They are battling to receive compensation following their injuries and the majority of them are left down and out,” said the wife of Roebel Botha said.

The Supreme Court of Appeal recently ordered the Compensation Commission to urgently re-evaluate Roebel’s situation so that he could receive the compensation due to him.

A doctor found he was permanently unfit for work and his condition would progressively deteriorate. Today Roebel is wheelchair-bound.

Roebel Botha as a young and healthy officer. Picture: Supplied

The issue in his case is that the Compensation Commission said Roebel already had an existing injury when the police car in which he was a passenger collided with a taxi while they were chasing suspects.

In November 1997, he underwent his first spinal fusion following a neck injury he suffered while training for the SAPS specialised reaction force injury when he was made to carry a colleague on his back during training. Less than three months later the vehicle collision occurred, the subject of this claim.

The court said there was no option but for the commissioner to obtain further medical reports, detailing the extent to which the pre-existing injuries were the cause of Botha’s permanent disablement.

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It was said that the tribunal should bear in mind that employees should be assisted as far as possible.

As Botha was injured 24 years ago, the tribunal was given six months to calculate what he was owed. The court commented that the delays in finalising his claim were unreasonable, egregious and unexplained.

Roebel is meanwhile battling to make ends meet. He said he had to sell all his fishing gear and woodworking machinery - two of his hobbies which kept him going - to get money together to pay for a medical legal report to present to the Compensation Commissioner during the next fight to get compensation.

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His wife meanwhile said such a report costs in the region of R22 000.

Chairmaine, who is taking on her husband’s battle, is also assisting many others in his situation who were rendered disabled due to injury on duty and not receiving the financial compensation due to them.

“I will bring this matter under the president’s attention soon, when we will march to the Union Buildings. It's a matter of urgency and he must intervene.”

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Charmaine said they did not have a date at this stage as to when it would happen. She is planning on bringing the plight of about 108 former SAPS officers to the attention of government. “I want them to see the hiccups these people must face, simply to get compensation.”

Roebel meanwhile said the 108 comprise members with ranks ranging from constable to colonel.

“These members were once lead investigators in high profile crimes such as the Kaalvoet Thysie, Gert van Rooyen and Advocate Barbie cases. They all got injured while on duty.”

According to Roebel, many of these claims, such in his case, are 20 years and older. He said apart from disputing how much compensation was due to these people, other issues are also at play, such as that the majority of these members’ documents were misplaced and lost by the SAPS over the years.

But, he said, the battle to get compensation went far beyond this, as people were sent from pillar to post. “I fear we are the forgotten ones. Where we were once proud members of the SAPS, no one seems to care for us anymore.

“When I got medically boarded years ago my salary was cut from R8000 to R2 400 per month. If I can’t get my claim successfully finalised this is the money I must survive on,” Roebel said.

While he is pinning his hope on the next round with the Compensation Commission as ordered by the court, Roebel is not hopeful that he will receive enough money to be survive financially.

Pretoria News

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