Pretoria - Police tortured a Soweto man over several days, trying to suffocate him with a plastic bag, dripping melting plastic on to his bare skin and even trying to extract the nail of his big toe with an axe, causing permanent damage.
The result is that the taxpayer will have to fork out R250 000 in damages to Tebogo Makgale.
This is apart from covering the bill for all the legal costs incurred by Makgale, 24, and the State as a result of this case heard by the South Gauteng High Court in Joburg.
The State will also pay the fees of three medical experts who testified before Judge Cynthia Pretorius.
Makgale’s ordeal began when police called at his home as four friends were visiting him.
All five were told that they were suspects in a housebreaking case.
After searching Makgale’s room, the police loaded the five friends into a van and detained them in police cells on November 12, 2011.
The next day two policemen took Makgale from his cell, cuffed his hands behind his back and made him sit on a chair in an office.
They pulled a glove with water over his head to cover his face and he could not breathe.
The police repeatedly asked him questions about a stolen bakkie.
Because he could not provide answers, Makgale was tortured further.
He was taken to a stretch of veld and assaulted before being taken back to his cell.
Makgale said the police fetched him again after a few hours and drove him to a parking lot where eight men were waiting for him, including the owner of the bakkie.
He was told to lie on the ground, while one of the policemen sat on his back.
He was again tortured with the glove and water – a procedure that was repeated several times.
The eight men – members of the public – kicked and assaulted him and told him they were going to kill him.
They placed a melting plastic bag over his bare back, neck and ear, before hitting him with a rifle and sjamboks.
Makgale said one of the men, using an axe, tried to remove his toenail, but failed.
He was taken back to his cell, where he was left for two days with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Makgale feared he would die at the hands of the police, but was afraid to call for help.
He was taken to court on the fourth day.
He was released on a warning and the case was postponed.
The charges against him were later withdrawn.
His sister took him to a doctor, who found several injuries across his body inflicted during the prolonged assault.
Psychiatrists who examined Makgale a year later said he continued to experience post-traumatic stress disorder.
He also feared the police might take him away again and torture him.
The court was told that Makgale needed to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Judge Pretorius gave the police a tongue-lashing, saying: “There is no doubt he had been tortured in a horrendous and inhumane manner.
“Not only did he suffer at the hands of the police, but the SAPS also allowed private citizens to torture him under their watch.
“The acts by the police were despicable… The very people who should uphold the law, not only failed dismally to do so, but transgressed themselves.
“Here the appointed protectors and sentinels of our civilised democratic society acted as if they never heard of the existence of the constitution.
“They became brutal torturers and instigators.”
In awarding damages, Judge Pretorius said she had taken into consideration the mental, physical and psychological effects of the torture.
She had also taken into account that Makgale’s hands had been cuffed behind his back for two days.