As it later turned out, Ishmael Mbanjwa was a victim of the robbery and not part of it.
Mbanjwa instituted a R1.2m claim against the police following his ordeal when he was locked up for five months in a prison.
But Mbanjwa told the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, his nightmare started after his release on bail. Not only did he lose lost his job,he was also blacklisted and nearly lost all his hard earned possessions.
Judge Nicolene Janse van Nieuwenhuizen, in ordering the police to pay him slightly more than R1m, said the SAPS had to make sure of its facts before arresting a person on the mere word of someone else.
It was clear that Mbanjwa, 29, was a hardworking person, who simply tried to provide for his family, she said. “No amount of money will, however, compensate him for what he had lost."
Mbanjwa was on duty as shift manager on the casino floor on November 4, 2005, when armed robbers stormed inside. He was forced at gunpoint to open several safes.
A police investigation ensued and several statements were taken from employees. CCTV video and audio footage were also analysed.
The judge noted that none of these implicated Mbanjwa in the crime. “On the contrary, it showed him clearly being a victim.”
About two months later the investigating officer, only identified as a Colonel Thlapi, received information that Mbanjwa was involved in the robbery.
The judge again commented that in looking at the police docket, there was not a shred of evidence that implicated Mbanjwa.
Yet he was arrested in full view of his colleagues while working. He was handcuffed and taken to his apartment where his wife and young child were sleeping. The police ransacked the house, looking for the money and he and his wife were treated as criminals.
He was refused bail, as the police assured the prosecution that it had a strong case against him.
Mbanjwa was released on bail five months later and the court cleared his name, as there was no evidence against him.
But he had meanwhile lost his job, as the gambling board revoked his licence which entitled him to work in the casino.
In desperation he tried to make ends meet by hawking in the township, while he was unemployed and blacklisted.
He eventually found permanent employment with Liberty Life, on condition he cleared his poor credit records.
Mbanjwa said he had spent five harrowing months in a “notorious prison”, being locked up with 50 hardened criminals. He was only allowed an hour per week for exercise and spent the entire five months fearing for his life.
“One can imagine how demeaning this must have been, bearing in mind that not so long ago he was a manager,” the judge said.
The court heard he still suffered trauma and will have to receive long term counselling to come to terms with his ordeal.