Pretoria - Despite repeated complaints, the SAPS failed to protect a woman against threats from her former husband, a police inspector, who shot and killed her with his service pistol.
Pretoria High Court Acting Judge Jan Hiemstra found the minister of police liable for the damages suffered by Patricia Ramango, the aunt of the late Thelma Mashamba. Apart from claiming damages for her own loss, Ramango is claiming maintenance for Mashamba’s two children who she is now raising.
Mashamba was shot dead on May 29, 2008 at the Makhado police station in Limpopo by her former husband Freddy Mashamba.
She had frequently complained to the police that her former husband had abused and threatened to kill her. The police did not heed her complaints.
The station commander confiscated Mashamba’s service pistol, but it was handed back to him.
He was earlier convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Thelma Mashamba married when she was 17, but the couple had a stormy relationship and eventually divorced. They were constantly fighting over how to divide their estate.
A week before the fatal shooting, he wrote a letter in which he said his estate was for his children and not for the vultures.
“I will never share my assets… rather kill or detain me,” he wrote.
He apparently told his father-in-law that if he lost his properties, he would kill his ex-wife.
The deceased laid several charges against him because he allegedly threatened to have her killed by a witch doctor, assaulted her and sent her threatening SMSes. She was terrified when she heard her husband’s firearm was handed back to him.
On the night before the murder, the aunt got a call from her niece that her ex-husband was prowling the neighbourhood looking for her, and had shone a torch into the home the women were sharing.
Ramango, a teacher, was at a school meeting and asked the police to escort her home as she was afraid. The policeman was “rude and made a fool of her”.
Ramango said she had letters in which the shooter had threatened the family with death and the policeman told her to fetch them. She was too scared to go home using the the road and “climbed over various fences” to fetch the letters.
She took them to the police station, where the policeman told her “you see, women want what they had not worked for”. He told her the letter contained no threat and she should go home.
The deceased also went to the police station to seek help, not knowing her former husband was there. When he saw her entering the police station, he shot her.
Judge Hiemstra said an important consideration in the matter was the risk the State bears when it employs a police officer. This risk is magnified when the State issues an officer with a firearm which he is allowed to carry at all times, even off duty. The situation in this case was aggravated by the fact that the policeman had proved himself to be a volatile character who repeatedly threatened to kill his ex-wife. The station commander regarded this so seriously that his firearm was confiscated. For some unknown reason it was returned to him.
He added that it was the killer’s duty, as a policeman, to protect people, instead he killed his former wife.
Judge Hiemstra referred to the police’s “half-hearted, if any” efforts to protect the deceased and the fact that they did not take her complaints seriously.
He said the police had failed in their duty.