A Limpopo citrus farmer, who suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress after soldiers fired shots at his car during an apparent ambush three years ago, has won the first skirmish in his legal battle for compensation.
In terms of a settlement agreement reached in the High Court in Pretoria this week, the defence minister conceded 100% liability for the damages suffered by Peter Nicholson, who owns the Alicedale Estate at Tshipise.
The amount of damages he must receive will only be determined later.
The 60-year-old instituted a damages claim of more than R6 million against Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, after an incident on the road between Tshipise and Bokmakierie in the north of Limpopo in April 2015, when his vehicle struck a spiked metal trap strip that was pulled across the road and shots were fired at him.
He initially thought it was a snake when he saw an object crossing the road, but realised it was an ambush when he saw a soldier with an automatic rifle appearing, and starting to fire shots in his direction.
Realising he was in trouble, he drove to the farmhouse of a neighbour, despite the tyres of his car being punctured.
He called the police and later returned to the scene where he found the police, military personnel and civilians who were identified as “informers”.
When he asked why the soldiers had shot at his vehicle, one of them told him it was “a mistaken identity”.
The police arrested some SA National Defence Force members, stationed at the Musina military base, at the scene.
Nicholson laid charges of attempted murder, malicious damage to property and intimidation against them, but the case was later withdrawn.
He said he had posed no threat to anyone and there was no need to use deadly force against him.
He was so terrified that he had to get psychiatric treatment. Nicholson still had recurrent thoughts and nightmares, felt tense most of the time and had panic attacks when he heard gunfire or was near a roadblock. He avoided soldiers and places where he might be confronted by soldiers.