Pretoria – A drunk BMW driver who left his girlfriend in bed at his Pretoria home, in order to fetch his other girlfriend from a shopping centre in Menlyn, has had his R2 million claim against Tshwane Metro police officers who shot at his car 15 times, dismissed.
The BMW driver had been stopped by the police after driving through a red traffic light and nearly crashing into the officers who had been patrolling that evening.
He sped away after failing to produce his drivers licence.
The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria dismissed Fatuwani Ramahala’s application to claim damages from the metro police department after officers shot his car in an attempt to stop him.
Ramahala’s troubles started on the night of August 26, 201, when he was sleeping at his Pretoria home with his girlfriend, Kgomotso, in a flat in Sunnyside when he received a call from his other girlfriend, Amanda.
Amanda was at Menlyn shopping centre and asked Ramahala to pick her up. He tried to make an excuse saying he couldn’t as he was on medication, but Amanda persisted until he gave in. It was later found he had infact been consuming alcohol.
On his way to fetch Amanda, Ramahala crossed a red robot and made a sudden U-turn almost hitting a Ford Focus driven by Tshwane traffic officers that were parked on the side of the road who were working on a road block.
The officers immediately signalled Ramahala to stop.
After stopping, Amanda also came and jumped into the car as she was not far. They asked for his licence and he failed to provide it.
The officers also realised that he was drunk and one of the officers asked him to get out of the car, but he refused and sped off.
Ramahala would later tell the court that he did not understand the English term of a U-turn, but agreed he did manoeuvre as described by a U-turn.
He said he did this because he realised he had passed Amanda and was driving back to her.
He also said he was not drunk, however, his eyes were red because he had just woken up and he fled the scene because he was scared of being hijacked.
He added that he was also in fear of the officer who approached him because he was “bully like” and coloured, and according to him, coloured people were known to be “dangerous”.
He said before taking off, he signalled to the officers that they should meet at the police station, however, he outran them because his BMW could easily outrun the Ford Focus in sport mode.
The court heard that officers started shooting at the wheels of the car to prevent it from driving off. It was also at this time that Amanda decided to get out of the car leaving Ramahala to speed away alone.
Officers told the court that they called for back-up as they realised that Ramahala was a threat to other motorists and had no intention to stop even though his car had slowed down after one of the tyres was shot.
Ramahala eventually stopped at Sunnyside. He testified that he did so because he realised he left Amanda stranded and decided to call Lumka, her sister, and told her that he was shot at and was on his way to a police station.
Officers eventually caught up with him and arrested him on the spot.
He said he never succeeded in his purpose to get to a police station because his conscience told him to call Amanda’s sister.
In her judgment, Judge Sulet Potterill said Ramahala did not make a good impression on the court due to the contradictions in his evidence.
“He did not even recall the near collision with the marked metro vehicle. It was common cause that he was agitated with Amanda because he was now stopped by the Metro Police while he knew he was intoxicated and he said so.”
Potterill said Ramahala also failed to mention to Ipid that he was in fear of being hijacked, a fact that would spontaneously be repeated simply because it was traumatic and would have exasperated the fear and the reason to pull off.
She found that the metro police officer made a good impression on the court and found that they acted lawfully in pursuit of Ramahala.
“(Officer) De Jager testified logically and coherently and did not deviate from his version. There is nothing improbable in his version. He was corroborated by (Officer) Shaku and there were no material contradictions,” Potterill said.
Ramahala’s application was dismissed with costs.
“Costs to include the costs in respect of the previous hearings of July 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 together with costs incumbent upon the employment of senior counsel.”