Pretoria - Turning down an appeal by police against paying about R340 000 in damages to a Beit Bridge border post export manager - humiliated and kept in a metal shipping container for four days - a judge said this was just one of far too many horrifying cases against the police.
North Gauteng High Court Judge Piet Ebersohn was so outraged by the “power drunk, cruel and arrogant” conduct of an SAPS border control policeman, that he - for the second time - ordered his judgment be forwarded to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) to probe the conduct of Captain Edward Sello Sekelele.
When he first heard the matter, Judge Ebersohn awarded damages to Louw van der Laarse and ordered the matter be brought to the attention of the SAPS authorities so they could deal with Sekelele.
Now, during the SAPS appeal, he again ordered his judgment be forwarded, as it was clear nothing had been done, he said.
During the main application Judge Ebersohn said: “This court can only hope the matter receives attention from some senior officer as the conduct of (Sekelele) cannot be left unpunished. He is particularly unsuited to be an officer and to be in charge anywhere.”
Van Laarse had instituted the damages claim against the police and Sekelele for unlawful arrest.
The judge ordered that the SAPS pay Van Laarse R200 000 for loss of liberty, R150 000 for injury to his reputation and R58 000 for legal fees.
While conceding the ill-treatment of Van Laarse, the SAPS felt the amount awarded to him by the court was too much.
Van Laarse’s problems started on May 21, 2012, while working at the border post. He noticed Japanese tourists in an altercation with border police as they wanted to bring their hunting rifles across the border. Van Laarse tried to intervene, but was arrested by Sekelele, who made a display of this in front of all the people at the border post.
“The arrest was the worst form of an arrogant, cruel, power drunk, loud and boastful officer going about to humiliate the manager of a company…” the judge said.
Van Laarse was locked up for four days at Musina police station in an overcrowded metal ship container in the blazing sun.
The judge said despite the fact that Sekelele realised no crime was committed by anybody, he did not release Van Laarse. Instead, he had him incarcerated in the overcrowded container with 23 Zimbabweans.
Each prisoner had about 0.5m2 of space. Van Laarse was robbed straight away by the other prisoners of everything he had. Many other humiliating acts against him were also committed in the container.
Judge Ebersohn said Sekelele did not have the “decency to admit his folly” nor the “guts” to admit he had made a mistake in arresting Van Laarse. Instead, he left him in the container for days - in line with the “arrogant mentality” of Sekelele.
At first, police denied any wrongdoing by Sekelele, but decided to concede the merits. This meant no evidence was led. The judge said: “It’s clear this was one of those shocking, horrifying cases against the SAPS, where they did not want the case to be aired in open court to prevent the whole gruesome story to unfold.”