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A former labourer is due to receive R800 000 in damages following his wrongful arrest and detention on accusations of having stolen from “a white man” and raped his wife.
He spent 28 weeks in jail before his name was cleared and he was released.
Mazo Albert Gumede, a father of four from Ivory Park, initially claimed more than R7.3 million from the ministers of police and justice, as well as from an Inspector Gysbert Coetzee.
The ministers, in their official capacity, conceded that Gumede, 49, had been unlawfully arrested and detained.
The only issue which the court had to determine was the amount of damages he should be awarded.
Gumede told the Pretoria High court earlier that he was arrested by Coetzee and other police near Hartbeespoort Dam in the early hours of March 2, 2007.
At the time, he was travelling in a vehicle with a friend to nearby mines.
They were stopped by the police, who opened the door and ordered Gumede to get out of the car and to lie on the ground.
The police kicked him and asked him where he was coming from so early in the morning.
According to Gumede the police told him to produce the goods he had stolen from “a certain white person whose wife was raped”.
Gumede said he tried to explain that he knew nothing about the rape and the robbery, but the police slapped and kicked him, causing him internal injuries.
Despite his protestations he was taken to a nearby police station where he was charged with rape and robbery.
He told the court he was traumatised by his arrest and detention.
He was kept in a filthy cell with no flushing toilets and no water, and the blankets were dirty and “stinking”.
Judge KE Matojane said it was clear that Gumede had suffered considerable humiliation and trauma as a result of his unlawful arrest, which was carried out publicly and in a degrading and humiliating manner.
He was at the time employed by a contractor in Ivory Park as a labourer, earning R1 800 a month.
Gumede had to remain behind bars for 112 days after his bail was refused.
His case was postponed time and again and the charges were eventually withdrawn.
On his release from prison, he found out that he had lost his job.
The judge said the constitution enshrined the right to freedom and security of the person.
“It follows that the plaintiff’s fundamental human rights were breached by his unlawful arrest and detention,” said the judge.
He added that while he was given various previous judgments by counsel relating to the award of damages in such instances, this was a difficult task, as each case differed.
“It is, however, important to bear in mind that the primary purpose of the award of damages for unlawful arrest and detention is not to enrich the aggrieved party, but to offer some much-needed solatium (compensation) for injured feelings.”
Judge Matojane said he gave careful consideration to all the facts, including the duration of incarceration and the fact that Gumede, who suffered from tuberculosis, was severely assaulted.
“I am of the view that a fair award to compensate the plaintiff for his wrongful arrest, deprivation of liberty, public humiliation and unlawful detention for 112 days, is an amount of R800 000.”