Pastor's arrest justified: courtComment on this story
Pretoria - A Namibian pastor arrested and detained for 10 days on allegations that he defrauded someone of a large sum of money has lost his R4 million damages claim against the police.
Pastor Jeremia Shanika of Vision for all Nations Ministries and his Pretoria company Gamedze Investment Corporation instituted the damages claim. It included more than R2.7m for loss of business opportunities while he was detained, R70 000 for loss of profit as he had to close his office while in detention and R100 000 for the damage to his reputation and dignity.
Whereas in many cases against the police, the Pretoria High Court had ruled in the claimant’s favour, Acting Judge MF Kganyago said that in this case the police had been within their rights to arrest and detain the pastor.
In court papers, Shanika stated that he was arrested at his office in the Pretoria city centre on August 15, 2008, by members of the Hillbrow police and kept under terrible and unhygienic conditions in a cell there for 10 days.
Shanika complained that the police did not have a warrant for his arrest.
But police said they were justified in arresting him without a warrant as he held dual South African and Namibian citizenship and was suspected of fraud and being involved in an illegal money scheme.
A member of the public laid a charge with the police that the pastor had defrauded him out of R66 000. The police said there were other people who had complained that they had been defrauded by him.
The policeman said that based on the complaints and the fact that Shanika had a Namibian passport, he decided to arrest and detain him.
The policeman admitted that Shanika had shown him an agreement which he had entered into with a complainant who claimed he was owed R66 000, but the policeman concluded that the pastor was rendering fraudulent services.
The case against Shanika was later struck from the court roll as the police were unable to trace witnesses. Shanika testified that he was a paralegal who rendered services relating to immigration issues, and an insurance adviser.
The pastor said he rendered services to a Mr Fernandez, who claimed he owed him R66 000. Shanika said he refused to pay this money, as he did not owe it.
The judge said an arrest which resulted in incarceration should always be done as a last resort, unless there was suspicion that a suspect could abscond. Fraud was a schedule 1 offence and, apart from Fernandez, there were others who said the pastor owed them money.
He said that from police investigations, it appeared Shanika received money from his clients, but did not issue them with receipts. The police said it looked like a syndicate which warranted an arrest without a warrant.
Judge Kganyago said the pastor’s evidence was vague and confusing. “In my view, he was an untruthful witness,” he said. Because Shanika had dual citizenship and other people had made allegations, there was a basis for the police to suspect him of wrongdoing and of being a possible flight risk.