Pretoria – Left quadriplegic after police opened fire at his hijacked car, a Soshanguve man will receive R19.2 million in damages in one of the country’s biggest payouts by the SAPS to a member of the public.
However, this is not all the taxpayer will have to fork out for the negligence of the police, as Mandla Mnisi’s lawyer Olaf Joubert has declared it is not the end of the matter. Joubert said they would head back to court in 2017 to estimate how much Mnisi was entitled to for loss of income.
The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has ordered that the minister of police pay the 35-year-old R16.7 million for past and future medical costs. This was apart from the interim payment of R2.5 million awarded to him earlier.
Mnisi was a director of a company which did construction work for the government when he was shot on 15 August 2011, and left paralysed. His Mercedes-Benz was riddled with 45 bullet holes from shots fired by the police at the hijackers while he was in the back seat.
He said in papers before court that he and a female friend were sitting talking in his car, which was parked in Minnaar Street, Sunnyside, at about 7pm, when they were hijacked by three armed men who drove off with the vehicle. Mnisi was instructed to sit in the back seat with his head between his legs, while his friend had to remain in the passenger seat.
“Two of the men were sitting on each side of me, while the third got into the passenger seat,” he said. “After we drove for a while I heard police sirens and I think the driver slowed down to a near-halt. The men instructed me to sit up and put my hat on. They started to argue among themselves as to whether they should stop for the police or not.
“The driver did not want to stop and told the others that he had outstanding police matters against his name. As we drove off I heard gunshots from outside the vehicle.
“There were many gunshots and I could not count them. The driver was hit by a bullet and eventually stopped the car. I was shot in the stomach, on the knee and in the back. My friend was shot in the leg.”
Mnisi said the police approached the vehicle and shouted while they opened the doors.
“I immediately told them I was the owner of the vehicle. One officer told the others the owner was in the car.”
Two of the three hijackers died on the scene. Mnisi was taken to hospital, where he remained for nearly a month.
“I cannot recall the three hijackers ever firing their guns during the incident. The police, who opened fire, did not try to stop the vehicle by firing at its tyres. They instead shot to hurt or kill the passengers in the vehicle.”
The vehicle was so riddled with bullet holes that it was written off by the insurers.
Mnisi said the shooting was unlawful due to unnecessary force used by the police while they had other means of stopping the vehicle and arresting the hijackers.
He suffered extensive damage to his spine, which left him wheelchair-bound and dependant on others.
One hijacker in the car and another who was part of the plot were sentenced to 12 and 14 years’ imprisonment respectively. The SAPS at first denied, but later conceded liability for Mnisi’s damages.
Joubert said: “Although we regard the compensation as fair and reasonable, no amount of money can ever give Mandla back the life he had.”