Police face damages claim

2011-05-27 00:00

THE family of a farmer from Babanango in KwaZulu-Natal, who was shot dead during a shoot-out with police in January, are claiming damages of about R10 million from the police.

A large number of police officers allegedly descended on Kobus de Vries on his farm on January 20. He was apparently shot and killed from behind.

Carel Taute, the De Vries family’s attorney, said yesterday the claim has been lodged on the grounds of the police’s actions, which were wrongful and intentional or negligent.

“We are currently working on the summons,” Taute confirmed.

However, the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) said they investigated the case, and that it was finalised after they found that the police members’ action was justified.

On the day of his death De Vries dropped his wife, Rentia, at the King Shaka airport near Durban. On the way back to his farm he was apparently involved in an argument with Eskom workers and policemen.

De Vries had apparently had problems with Eskom for some time due to daily power cuts on his farm.

Thinus de Vries told Beeld at the time that his brother stopped at the farm and instructed employees to close the farm gates and stop the police from coming on to his property.

He said about 40 police, including a number of snipers, arrived at the farm and surrounded the house.

The police persuaded one of De Vries’s employees to ask him to come out of the house, and that they would not shoot if he gave himself up.

The police then apparently opened fire on De Vries. According to family members he was fatally wounded in the back when he tried to run back into the house.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Brigadier Phindile Radebe said the police opened fire on De Vries after he first fired at them, not the other way round.

ICD spokesperson Moses Dlamini said a state pathologist and an independent pathologist conducted De Vries’s post-mortem.

“One of the pathologists was quite surprised when I told him the family have instituted a civil claim because they allege he was shot from behind. He said there were no bullet wounds in De Vries’s back,” Dlamini said.

Nantes Kelder, head of community safety for the civil rights initiative AfriForum, said they have an eyewitness statement as well as photographs as evidence that De Vries was shot from behind, presumably deliberately.

“The eyewitness walked past a group of policemen who said ‘Today we’re sorting De Vries out’. On the photograph one can clearly see that a bullet entered his back and exited from his chin. I doubt whether the ICD has this information,” Kelder said.

Dlamini said they will reopen the investigation when they have seen the new evidence.

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