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The minister of police, in his official capacity, is facing a R10 million damages claim after officers wrongfully arrested a homeless man sleeping in the veld, after accusing him of rape.
It was also claimed the victim identified her attacker when she heard his voice in the dark after his arrest, but could not see his face.
Amos Mahlangu, 53, remained in prison for months before he was granted bail. All charges against him were later dropped.
He is now claiming R5 million for unlawful arrest and detention and another R5m for malicious prosecution.
Pretoria High Court Judge Lettie Molopa-Sethosa found that the minister was liable for the damages Mahlangu could prove he had suffered. The amount due to him will be determined at a later stage.
Judge Molopa-Sethosa said: “The police officers, in my view, seemed to have been at pains to just arrest someone for the alleged rape and went for an innocent person without any reasonable justification.”
Mahlangu’s ordeal started on October 30, 2008, while he was sleeping in the veld along the then Hans Strijdom Drive near Elardus Park.
He was covered by blankets and plastic sheeting. He wore brown Bermuda shorts, a black jacket and a yellow T-shirt.
A male officer and a female officer woke him up by pulling the blankets off him, he said. They remarked about his clothes and said to each other “this is the one who raped the woman”.
Mahlangu was handcuffed and taken to a police vehicle parked next to the road.
Other SAPS members were waiting there and they assaulted him by punching him in the stomach and kicking him, he said.
The female officer, he said, stepped on his leg, took pictures of him and laughed at him.
Mahlangu said he was taken to the Lyttelton police station.
There he was locked up in a cell, without anyone telling him exactly what the charges against him were and who he was alleged to have raped.
He was not sure when he was granted bail, but said he was in prison for months before he was eventually freed.
Up to this day he had never seen the alleged victim and knew nothing about the allegations against him, he said. He was also never identified at an identity parade.
Constable Riaan van Wyk testified that the police received a complaint about a rape and they searched the veld for the culprit. They arrested Mahlangu, as he “fitted the description” given to police by one of the officers.
Van Wyk said they searched the veld for more than an hour “before they found their man”.
Asked how the police could be sure it was Mahlangu, he said his clothes fitted the description given to them.
Van Wyk conceded that at no stage after the arrest did he verify with the victim whether it was the right man they had arrested.
Warrant Officer Johanna du Preez testified that a young woman reported that she had been raped. The victim was extremely traumatised and cried bitterly, so she decided that she could not take her statement at that stage.
The police went to the scene where the rape was carried out and where the victim was dragged into a ditch.
A search party was sent to find the culprit after the victim gave a brief description of him.
Du Preez said the victim later heard the voice of the suspect after his arrest and confirmed it was the man who had raped her, although she did not see him.
It later emerged the man who was arrested did not wear exactly the same clothes as described by the victim.
The judge said she fully believed Mahlangu’s testimony as he appeared to be honest.
She was convinced the police had tried to cover up for each other. They had made a poor impression on her, she said, and rejected their version.