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Pretoria - While several police officers appeared in two separate court cases in the country on Monday following incidents of police brutality, a Limpopo man claimed R1.7 million from the minister of police after he was allegedly manhandled by officers.
Marthinus Christoffel Vorster, 23, of Phalaborwa, said in papers before the Pretoria High Court that on April 12, 2010, he was arrested by police and detained for questioning.
Vorster said he was not informed of his constitutional rights, was not presented with a warrant for arrest, nor was he told at the time what the charges against him were.
He was simply taken to the offices of the SAPS in Phalaborwa. There he waited for three hours in an office, before being taken in a police van to the offices of the Hawks in Polokwane, Vorster said.
He claimed that when he arrived at those offices, he was assaulted, sworn at and insulted by officers.
He was then subjected to more questioning and “forced to answer questions under duress”.
Vorster said during an interrogation by three policemen, and after he refused to admit guilt on “various allegations” (he did not state what those were) he was beaten and assaulted and “forced to admit guilt”.
He was “intimidated” by members of the SAPS and forced to make a statement, which he did as he was terrified, Vorster said.
After he was forced to sign the statement, he was taken to another room where an unknown person was also being interrogated.
Although he had never met that person, he was “coerced” into answering questions about him, in an attempt to dishonour the man, Vorster said. “This man was also beaten and assaulted in front of me, causing me emotional stress.”
After the other detainee was beaten, he (Vorster) was again assaulted by police. Later that night he was taken to police cells in Matlaka, close to Polokwane, where his constitutional rights were read to him for the first time, Vorster said.
The next morning he was taken to the court in Phalaborwa. On the way there the police again stopped at the offices of the Hawks, where Vorster met his lawyer.
Vorster said as they were about to consult in an office, SAPS members burst in and told the lawyer to leave. He was taken to police cells in Hoedspruit, where he was booked into a cell with other inmates.
“An Inspector Espach ordered that no white people or attorneys were allowed contact with me. He also ordered the inmates to assault me,” Vorster said.
The next morning police took him, the man he had witnessed being assaulted and several other accused, to point out certain locations, Vorster said. During this pointing-out, he was forced to make “false statements under oath”, as he feared for his safety, Vorster said.
He was taken to court only the next day, after being “held illegally by the police for 50 hours”.
He was then for the first time told that he was facing a charge of armed robbery before being taken to a jail in Gravelotte to await his second court appearance.
A doctor visited him there and an compiled a report on the injuries he had received, allegedly at the hands of the police.
The injuries included a “big hole” in his eardrum, apparently as a result of a hefty blow to the ear.
It is not clear from court papers whether anything came of the charges against Vorster, who stated that the experience was humiliating and caused him psychological trauma.
The police, in their defence, issued the court with a blanket denial of all the allegations and said Vorster had to prove that they acted unlawfully. The case was postponed indefinitely.