Former gymnastics champ sues minister for R2m
By EDDIE BOTHA
A former Springbok gymnast is claiming R2m from the minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries after he and his wife were allegedly assaulted – in full view of their children – by the department’s inspectors on the family farm near Stanford.
The claim by Adrian Steyn, the financial director of JobLaw, a labour law company in Avondale, and his wife, Adelia, and their two minor children, includes the costs of thousands of rands for psychological counselling for the family after an incident three years ago on their farm, Roskeen.
The Cape Town high court summons has also been served on the minister of Environment and Tourism, the Western Cape MEC for Environment and Development Planning and a number of officials. They are Hendrick Vermeulen, Wandile Mgandela, Phindile Pupa and Simon Primus.
Two outsiders, Cecil Vermeulen, the father of Henrick Vermeulen, and Riaan Vogel, a family friend, who accompanied the inspectors when they arrived on the farm, have also been sued.
In an affidavit which has been filed at the high court Steyn described the incident on May 2 2009 when he noticed a vehicle carrying Henrick Vermeulen and his father and other passengers on the farm while the family had a braai with friends.
Steyn, SA’s national gymnast champion in 1994 who also represented the country at the Commonwealth Games, said he confronted the people inside the vehicle but that the driver tried to drive away. He said at that stage he feared for the safety of his children because the family had been the victims a few years earlier after a vicious attack on the farm during which he suffered a number of knife wounds.
During the confrontation, while Vermeulen allegedly ordered his father to drive away, another vehicle, a bakkie, sped down the farm’s driveway. According to Steyn the vehicle stopped perilously close to his son and a friend of his.
Steyn said at that stage he shouted to his wife to hit the panic button. He also took out his firearm, which he carries on him since the first attack, and fired a warning shot into the ground. He said he shouted to his son and his friend to run for the house.
He said Vermeulen and the others shouted at him to drop his gun. He however insisted that he wanted to see their IDs. While the driver of the other vehicle showed him an ID document, Vermeulen and the other allegedly overpowered him and took his gun away.
The men pushed him down and then threw him, head first, into the back of the bakkie, locking the canopy door. During that stage his wife asked to speak to him but was allegedly hit by one of the men with his elbow.
Steyn said that after a speeding trip to Hermanus he was placed in a holding cell at the police station. After a while Vermeulen had came into the cell indicating to him that he could leave. Outside, at the back of the building, Vermeulen handed him an envelope containing his firearm and said he would not press any charges against him. Vermeulen then told him that he (Vermeulen) was an under-cover inspector of the erstwhile Marine Coastal Management unit.
Steyn said the incident, especially Vermeulen’s alleged actions, have severely traumatised his family.
He said Vermeulen later contacted him telephonically after Steyn’s attorney, Carlo Swanepoel, had contacted the department, requesting certain information. Steyn alleged that Vermeulen told him that he would lay a criminal charge against Steyn if he persists with a civil action.
Vermeulen said this week that he was not allowed to comment.
Leon Manuel from the state attorney’s office, who is dealing with the matter, has confirmed that Steyn case will be defended.