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SAPS to pay for innocent man’s prison nightmare

The Johannesburg High Court ordered the SAPS to pay the damages to Vincent Mathiso following his harrowing ordeal.

The Johannesburg High Court ordered the SAPS to pay the damages to Vincent Mathiso following his harrowing ordeal.

Published Dec 9, 2021


CAPE TOWN - A man who was arrested out of the blue on unsubstantiated accusations that he was a woman abuser has been awarded R350 000 in damages.

He had to spend 26 days in what he called filthy, flea-infested holding cells before he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

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The Johannesburg High Court ordered the SAPS to pay the damages to Vincent Mathiso following his harrowing ordeal.

Asked by the court during his evidence how much damages he was claiming, Mathiso told the judge that “R100 000 is sufficient so that I can take my children to school”.

This was after his lawyers had instituted a claim on his behalf for R950 000.

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The court, however, decided that he was entitled to R350 000, especially given the fact that as a family man he had lost his job while in jail for no reason.

The court said it was obvious that in South Africa the prospects of getting a job grew harder by the day, especially for those with little or no skills.

Mathiso turned to court to claim damages for unlawful arrest and detention by the SAPS following his arrest on April 21, 2017, at his home in Doornfontein, Johannesburg.

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The SAPS simply issued a bare denial of all Mathiso’s allegations, but they did not call any witnesses to refute his allegations.

Mathiso, the only witness who testified, said on his return from work, he found his stay-in girlfriend with a man he did not know. He proceeded with his usual routine of taking a shower after work.

He asked his girlfriend who the man was and she told him he was her brother. He said he was surprised as he had not seen the person before that day.

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Mathiso tasked his daughter to prepare dinner, as he noticed that no food had been cooked.

According to him, his girlfriend, who questioned him as to why his daughter had brought him food, left the house. She returned about an hour and a half later in the company of the same man.

Mathiso said the man, who later turned out to be a police officer, arrested him out of the blue on a charge of abusing his girlfriend.

He said he was handcuffed and manhandled and pushed against a fence. He said the man never identified himself as a police officer at that point and was dressed in civilian clothes.

He was driven to Jeppe police station where he was processed and taken to a holding cell.

While at the police station, he was informed that the charge against him was for “assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm”.

Mathiso described the conditions in the holding cell as unhygienic and filthy.

According to him, the toilet did not flush and the cell was overcrowded, with about 15 other inmates.

He said he slept on the floor and had only one blanket, which was infested with lice.

He was provided with a small towel and soap to take a shower with cold water. The breakfast consisted of two slices of brown bread and black coffee.

The routine was repeated for the remainder of the weekend until he was taken to court on the Monday.

His case was postponed for a week “for further investigation”.

He was then taken to the Johannesburg Correction Centre (known as Sun City).He had to remain behind bars for 26 days before the court withdrew the charge due to a lack of evidence.

Meanwhile, Mathiso lost his job and people started referring to him as an abuser.

He told the court he had to endure unbearable conditions and that the experience was hurtful and humiliating.

The court found that his rights were trampled on by the SAPS, who never made sure of their facts before his arrest.

Cape Times

Related Topics:

Crime and courts