Unlawful arrest costs minister of police dearly
R275 000 in damages, with interest at a rate of 10% from the date of demand to the date of payment added, is what a wrongfully detained man can now look forward to receiving. The costs of his High Court application must also be paid by the defendant, in this case Police Minister Bheki Cele.
This week the South Gauteng High Court ordered the police minister to pay R275 000 in damages after police wrongfully detained Boccaccio Bhekumuzi Nhlapo for two days and impounded his car in November 2019.
Nhlapo dragged the minister to court in September 2020 after his arrest in November 2019.
Nhlapho was arrested at his home by police officers who came to his house looking for a person named Thabiso.
After proving his identity to them to convince them that he was not the person they were searching for, police still searched his house and his car.
Nhlapo testified that the police then suggested that the chassis number of his car had been tampered with and told him that they were going to impound the vehicle. He further said that although he did not want to keep them from fulfilling their duties, he disputed any knowledge of tampering.
According to Nhlapo’s testimony, police then arrested him, but first demanded a bribe of R10 000. He declined to pay the bribe.
Nhlapo was kept in the holding cells at the Kagiso police station in Krugersdorp and was released after two days without being charged or appearing in court.
Nhlapo also testified about the unhygienic and inhumane conditions of the holding cells in which 14 or 15 people were kept. According to him they had to sleep on the floor with dirty blankets, that there was no door separating the cell from the toilet and that ventilation was inadequate with only small windows.
The case was originally supposed to be heard on 1 February 2022, but before it could happen, the police minister’s legal team conceded to the merits of Nhlapo’s claim. They however did not agree with the amount of between R250 000 and R300 000 in damages he was asking the court to grant him and offered only R80 000.
Judge Susannah Cowen, to whom the case was allocated, this week said in her judgment that Nhlapo was clearly arrested unlawfully and detained over two days in unhygienic and inhumane circumstances, his home was unlawfully searched, and his vehicle was unlawfully seized in circumstances that amount to harassment.
She concluded that the facts of his case warrant an award in the region contended for by Nhlapo and found that R275 000 should be awarded.
She said that multiple constitutional rights according to the South African bill of rights were violated through the processes of unlawful search, seizure, arrest and detention over the period and ordered the minister of police to pay R275 000 in damages, with interest added at a rate of 10% from the date of demand to the date of payment. The minister also has to pay the costs of the High Court application.
Written by Heinrich Gonzales, Director of HFG Attorneys Inc.
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