A 36-year-old man from Heidelberg in Gauteng had to undergo a four-hour operation to relieve bleeding and pressure on the brain after he was pelted with stones by protesters.
Burger van der Merwe was on his way to Steelpoort last Thursday when he encountered a group of protesters in Delmas. They blocked the road.
According to Van der Merwe’s sister-in-law, Michelle Botha, police at the scene told him that the protests were being monitored and that it was safe to drive on. It is not certain what the group was protesting about.
However, when he drove on, the protesters approached Van der Merwe’s bakkie and started throwing stones at his vehicle.
“The protesters tried to pull Burger out of the bakkie, but because he is a big, strong man, they fortunately did not succeed,” says Botha.
Some of the stones thrown by the protesters hit Van der Merwe on the head.
“Burger kept his head and put the van in reverse. The fact that he did not lose consciousness was only God’s grace.”
Van der Merwe drove to the Sasol filling station a few meters away. The manager of the petrol station saw that something was wrong with Van der Merwe and went to help him. He also called Van der Merwe’s wife, Jacqueline.
Jacqueline, Botha and their husband, Chris, rushed to Delmas.
“Burger looked confused and started vomiting. His whole shirt was full of blood and his one eye was blue and completely swollen.”
An ambulance was called and Van der Merwe was taken to Parkland Hospital in Springs. Here the doctors determined that Van der Merwe had suffered a fractured skull, bleeding on the brain and concussion.
Van der Merwe had to undergo an emergency operation to relieve the bleeding and pressure on the brain. The doctors also determined that Van der Merwe’s skull had shattered and splinters had lodged in his brain. A plate was placed in his head during the operation.
“The neurologist has my sister [Jacqueline] informed that this is a dangerous operation. It was the longest four hours of our lives. With the Lord’s grace, the operation went well.”
Van der Merwe was transferred to the intensive care unit, where the neurologist closely monitored his condition. He was discharged on Monday and according to Botha, he still speaks in a slur and is still slightly confused at times.
“Overall, he is making very good progress, which the doctor says is an absolute miracle.”
However, it is still too early to determine whether Van der Merwe has sustained any long-term damage.
The family now wants to warn members of the public to be careful when it comes to protests.
“Avoid situations like this at all times, even if there are police on the scene, because you can’t even trust them to keep you safe.”
The family is considering filing a case with the police, but does not know who to hold responsible. “This is because Burger cannot connect anyone directly to the incident.”
Rhewal made inquiries about the incident to the police and the Victor Khanye local municipality, but received no response.
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