A former convict was dealt a heavy blow yesterday after the state won in a case in which he was suing for the loss of fingers and mental illness allegedly occasioned by a prison stay.
Thirty-one-year-old Rebaone Ntwaagae, who is on parole and still doing extra mural activities, lost the case against the Attorney General as Gaborone High Court judge, Tshepo Motswagole ruled that he had failed to prove negligence by prison officials.
Ntwaagae lost four fingers at a prison workshop in 2010 and said he had also become mentally disturbed during his stay in prison.
Motswagole upheld the application by state on the absolution of the case after final submissions yesterday. “This was clearly a case of negligence by the prison officials which ought to have been clearly stated and evidence represented, but that has not been the case and therefore the application for absolution is upheld and reasons will follow in due course,” he said.
The state represented by Neo Sharp said Ntwaagae had failed to lead evidence as to why he was entitled to the P600,000 he was suing for. “There is no dispute that the plaintiff was injured while in prison and that he claims to have gone mentally disturbed and that he is the sole breadwinner, but he has not proved any duty that is bound to us, therefore he has not proven any case,” she said.
Earlier on Ntwaagae’s attorney, Unangoni Tema told court that the prison officials had a duty to perform as they were supposed to have trained him on the machines he was to use prior to the accident.
He said they were duty-bound to provide protective clothing and formal training to his client, saying the failure to do so was a clear case of negligence. “My client was never given any training despite telling the prison officials that carpentry was not his area of expertise and on top of that, there was no supervision or even protective clothing offered,” Tema said. “This is a clear case of negligence and he is entitled to the compensation he seeks.”
He explained that while he had indicated to the prison officials that he was unable to do carpentry and that he wanted to continue his studies, they told him that he could not choose for himself and was at their mercy.
“After five months of observing from others, I was assigned to do some work and as a result I was hurt by the machines, cutting my four left fingers. “After being injured I couldn’t cope and I ended up being admitted for mental evaluation, which proved that I was indeed disturbed.
“I was put on medication, which I am still taking,” he told the court.
He further said that after injury, he was offered “a mere P16,200” as compensation, which he rejected.
“It was too little for my injuries because they prevent me from doing anything as the sole breadwinner and also for the emotional trauma I suffered,” he said.
While the state argued that Ntwaagae had received training as a police report filed two days after the incident indicate, the former inmate denied ever giving the police statement and said the signature on it was not even his.