Outrageous behaviour by members of the police towards the public is the order of the day, said a Pretoria High Court acting judge in slapping the minister of police with a R200 000 damages payout to a security officer who was manhandled by the SAPS.
Laurentius Bezuidenhout, from ERRS Security Company, initially claimed R330 000 in damages from the police for unlawful arrest and detention as well as assault.
The police claimed the arrest was lawful and denied that Bezuidenhout was assaulted.
At the time, he worked for a company guarding Gautrain building sites. He and a colleague, Simon Sithole, were patrolling the sites on November 6, 2010 in a company vehicle. Sithole was the passenger.
Police on patrol in the Pretoria CBD stopped their vehicle at 2am on the corner of Nelson Mandela Drive and Francis Baard Street.
The police claimed Sithole was drinking beer and they were arresting him for drinking in public.
They cuffed him and took him the police vehicle.
The police claim Bezuidenhout told them they were “dumb constables” who did not know their job.
They said he pushed them around and they warned him that they were going to arrest him for interfering with their duties.
The police told Acting Judge Jan Hiemstra that Bezuidenhout swore at and “fought” them.
They called for back-up and subdued him with pepper spray.
But Bezuidenhout had a totally different version. He said the police stopped them and asked for Sithole’s ID. He did not have it, and Bezuidenhout offered to fetch it, but the police were not interested.
They wanted a bribe, which Sithole refused to pay.
The police said they were going to arrest him and would find a reason for doing so later.
Bezuidenhout said the police went to their vehicle and fetched two bottles of beer which they placed between Sithole’s feet in the security vehicle. Bezuidenhout said when he objected, he was told to “shut up white, boer, this is our country and we will do what we like”.
Bezuidenhout said under no circumstances would they drink on duty as company rules forbade it.
He said about seven police vehicles and several metro police vehicles arrived on the scene and “a lot of policemen” hit him with batons, fists and open hands.
He tried to defend himself, but one of the officers pulled him down from behind by his private parts.
He was pinned to the ground and someone pepper-sprayed his eyes while another took his cellphone.
Bezuidenhout was taken to the police station and later to a doctor as he had facial and head injuries.
He and Sithole were only released the next evening after negotiations and “pleading” with the police. Bezuidenhout later laid a charge of assault and unlawful arrest, but the prosecutor declined to prosecute.
Bezuidenhout said his experience left him without trust in the SAPS.
The judge foundthe policemen who testified insolent and contemptuous of the court.