Police accept liability

2014-05-30 00:00

POLICE were forced to throw in the towel yesterday and accept that the minister is liable to pay damages to the family of slain KwaZulu-Natal taxi boss Bongani Mkhize.

This after high court Judge Gregory Kruger refused to adjourn the civil case pending the outcome of criminal charges the state has laid against the policemen who shot Mkhize, who was gunned down during a car chase in Durban in February 2009.

He ordered the police to “get cracking” and to call their first witnesses, but immediately afterwards advocate Rod Cullum SC said he had no witnesses to call and that he had no option but to close the case for the police.

Although the initial claim lodged against the police was for R2,1 million in damages, the amount the Mkhize family will ultimately be paid by the state will only be decided during future proceedings.

Mkhize’s widow, Fakazile — who so feared for her life after her husband’s death that she disguised herself in Muslim clothing when she first consulted her lawyer, Petrus Coetzee, about the civil claim — said the ruling will help the family.

But they still want to see justice done in the criminal case against the policemen involved in his shooting, she and other family members said outside court.

“We are happy with the outcome today. We now see the light, but justice must still take its course,” Mkhize’s daughter, Zamambo, said in the wake of the ruling.

Zamambo, her brother Nkosiphile and their aunt Phumelele Sibisi, who attended the court case yesterday, said Mkhize’s taxi business had suffered and was “struggling” in the wake of his death.

In court papers the family members alleged Mkhize was deliberately “executed” by the police despite having obtained an earlier interdict to stop the police from harassing and/or killing him.

The police maintained in reply that Mkhize was shot lawfully after he opened fire on police.

Ironically, the same policemen are among 30 members of the Organised Crime Unit who face 116 murder and other charges alongside suspended KZN Hawks boss Major General Johan Booysen in the so-called “Cato Manor hit squad” case in Durban.

Included in these charges is the murder of Mkhize and related charges including “planting” a firearm on the crime scene, their advocate, Cas Pretorius, said.

Judge Kruger yesterday criticised the attitude of the police towards the civil trial saying they’d had more than a year to apply for an adjournment, but waited till the eleventh hour to do so.

The judge said advocate Cullum argued that the policemen involved in the shooting would probably refuse to testify in the case by invoking their constitutional right not to incriminate themselves because of the criminal charges they face in Durban.

However, the court papers made it quite clear that the police were defending the civil claim on grounds that the policemen had lawfully shot Mkhize. “I fail to see how then they could incriminate themselves,” he said.

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