Durban 280512 Derrick Mnyandu Pic Terry Haywood

Wrongfully arrested and kept in custody for 43 days, a Durban man says he finally feels vindicated after police admitted their wrongdoing and agreed to pay him more than R100 000 in damages on Monday.

In 2005, Derrick Mnyandu, who had worked at a Chatsworth petrol station, laid charges against Pinetown police officers Warrant Officer Kumaren Naidoo, who is now dead, Sergeant Torrence Lindani Mhlongo and police reservist Siza Ngubane.

Mnyandu said the officers had allegedly assaulted him at his home and stolen R8 000 in cash. He said the assault was sparked after he had an altercation with a man who was friends with the policemen.

About two weeks after Mnyandu had opened a case for theft and assault, the officers he had charged stopped him while he was walking in Shallcross and arrested him.

He was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Mnyandu appeared in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court and bail was set at R3 500. He could not afford to pay and was kept in custody at Westville prison for more than a month.

In December 2005 his wife Nokuthula Nxumalo, raised the bail money and he was released from prison.

Two years later, in October 2007, while the trial against Mnyandu was proceeding in court, the Pinetown senior public prosecutor PK Naidoo, stopped the prosecution and he was acquitted on both charges.

According to a court document, Naidoo said: “New evidence has come to light necessitating the stopping of the prosecution.”

Mnyandu then brought a civil case against the minister of safety and security for damages and loss of income.

The civil trial was expected to start in the Durban High Court on Monday, but Mnyandu’s attorney Johan Jooste, said the matter had been settled.

“The State attorney acting on behalf of the minister accepted liability and general damages of R90 000, damages for loss of income of R12 000 and the high court costs were awarded in my client’s favour.”

Speaking outside court, Mnyandu said life in custody had been ‘terrible” and he had contemplated suicide.

“I felt like I was living in hell. I was in a cell fit for 25 people, but there was about 70. I had to sleep on the floor and the food was worse than animal feed. It was unbearable.”

Mnyandu said because of his incarceration he lost his job and his home. “I lost everything I had. My family struggled while I was jail and even after I was released.”

He said he was glad that the police had accepted responsibility. “I want to publicise what happened to me because when you are arrested, people do not want to help you, they think you are the criminal. But in my case, I was the victim.” - The Mercury